L’ONU intraprende un primo passo concreto affinché Israele sia ritenuto responsabile per le violazioni dei diritti umani dei palestinesi

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Alto Commissario dell’ONU per i Diritti Umani, stringe la mano ai delegati prima dell’apertura della trentaseiesima sessione del Consiglio dei Diritti Umani, nella sede europea delle Nazioni Unite. Grazie a: Laurent Gillieron/AP

 

L’ONU intraprende un primo passo concreto affinché Israele sia ritenuta responsabile per le violazioni dei diritti umani dei palestinesi

 

27 settembre 2017 — Informazioni pubblicate oggi dai media hanno rivelato che l’Alto Commissario dell’ONU per i Diritti Umani due settimane fa ha iniziato a inviare lettere a 150 aziende in Israele e nel mondo, avvertendole che potrebbero essere aggiunte a una banca dati delle aziende complici che fanno affari nelle colonie illegali israeliane basate nella Cisgiordania palestinese occupata, compresa Gerusalemme Est.

Le lettere hanno ricordato a queste aziende che le loro attività nelle e con le colonie illegali israeliane sono in violazione di “diritto internazionale e contrarie alle risoluzioni dell’ONU”. Inoltre hanno chiesto che queste aziende rispondano con chiarimenti riguardo a tali attività.

Secondo funzionari israeliani di alto livello, alcune delle aziende hanno già risposto all’Alto Commissario dell’ONU per i Diritti Umani dicendo che non rinnoveranno i loro contratti o non ne firmeranno di nuovi in Israele. “Questo potrebbe trasformarsi in una valanga”, ha detto con preoccupazione un funzionario israeliano.

Delle 150 aziende, circa 30 sono ditte americane e un certo numero sono di nazioni che includono la Germania, la Corea del sud e la Norvegia. La metà restante sono aziende israeliane, compreso il gigante farmaceutico Teva, l’azienda telefonica nazionale Bezeq, l’azienda di autobus Egged, l’azienda idrica nazionale Mekorot, le due maggiori banche del paese Hapoalim e Leumi, la grande azienda militare e tecnologica Elbit Systems, Coca-Cola, Africa-Israel, IDB e Netafim.

Le aziende americane che hanno ricevuto le lettere includono Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor e Airbnb.

A quanto riferito, l’amministrazione Trump sta cercando di impedire la pubblicazione della lista.

 

Omar Barghouti, co-fondatore del movimento BDS, ha commentato:

Dopo decenni di deprivazione dei palestinesi e di occupazione militare e apartheid da parte di Israele, le Nazioni Unite hanno intrapreso un primo passo concreto e pratico per assicurare che Israele sia ritenuta responsabile per le sue continue violazioni dei diritti umani dei palestinesi. I palestinesi accolgono calorosamente questo passo.

Speriamo che il Consiglio per i Diritti Umani dell’ONU sia inflessibile e pubblichi la sua lista completa delle aziende che operano illegalmente nelle, o con, le colonie israeliane sulla terra palestinese rubata, e che elaborerà questa lista come richiesto dal Consiglio per i Diritti Umani dell’ONU nel marzo 2016.

Può essere troppo ambizioso aspettarsi che questa misura coraggiosa dell’ONU concernente la responsabilità possa “fare scendere dal piedistallo” Israele, come il leader anti-apartheid sudafricano, arcivescovo Desmond Tutu ha richiesto una volta. Ma se attuata correttamente, questa banca dati dell’ONU sulle aziende che sono complici in alcune delle violazioni di diritti umani da parte di Israele può presagire l’inizio della fine dell’impunità criminale di Israele.

 

Il Comitato Nazionale BDS palestinese (BNC) è la più grande coalizione della società civile palestinese. Guida e sostiene il movimento globale di Boicottaggio, Divestimento e Sanzioni. Visitate il nostro sito Internet e seguiteci su Facebook e Twitter @BDSmovement.

 

thanks to:  Comitato Nazionale BDS palestinese (BNC)  

Traduzione di BDS Italia

 

 

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UN takes first concrete step to hold Israel accountable for violating Palestinian human rights

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, shakes hand with delegates before the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations. Credit: Laurent Gillieron/AP

September 27, 2017  — Today’s media reports revealed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights began sending letters two weeks ago to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The letters reminded these companies that their operations in and with illegal Israeli settlements are in violation of “international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.” They also requested that these companies respond with clarifications about such operations.

According to senior Israeli officials, some of the companies have already responded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by saying they won’t renew their contracts or sign new ones in Israel. “This could turn into a snowball,” worried an Israeli official.

Of the 150 companies, some 30 are American firms, and a number are from nations including Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies, including pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot, the county’s two biggest banks Hapoalim and Leumi, the large military and technology company Elbit Systems, Coca-Cola, Africa-Israel, IDB and Netafim.

American companies that received letters include Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb.

The Trump administration is reportedly trying to prevent the list’s publication.

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, commented:

After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Palestinians warmly welcome this step.

We hope the UN Human Rights Council will stand firm and publish its full list of companies illegally operating in or with Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and will develop this list as called for by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016.

It may be too ambitious to expect this courageous UN accountability measure to effectively take Israel “off the pedestal,” as South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu once called for. But if implemented properly, this UN database of companies that are complicit in some of Israel’s human rights violations may augur the beginning of the end of Israel’s criminal impunity.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Visit our website and follow us on  Facebook and Twitter @BDSmovement.

thanks to: BDSmovement

Human Rights Watch: stop a relazioni economiche con colonie israeliane

Al fine di assolvere i loro obblighi verso i diritti umani, aziende e compagnie dovrebbero smettere di finanziare, fornire servizi e avere rapporti commerciali con le colonie israeliane nei territori palestinesi occupati. Questo il parere espresso oggi dall’organizzazione per i diritti umani Human Rights Watch in un rapporto di ben 162 pagine intitolato: “Occupazione S.p.A.: Come le aziende delle colonie contribuiscono alla violazione dei diritti dei palestinesi da parte di Israele”.
Quelle attività commerciali, insiste Hrw, ”contribuiscono infatti alla confisca di terre palestinesi da parte delle autorità israeliane e alle politiche discriminatorie che forniscono privilegi ai coloni a spese dei palestinesi, come l’accesso alla terra e all’acqua, i sussidi governativi e i permessi per sviluppare il territorio”. Secondo i dati forniti da Hrw, una ong comunque di stampa liberale, più di mezzo milione di israeliani vivono negli insediamenti della Cisgiordania, e a Gerusalemme est. Le attività commerciali citate nel rapporto ”hanno facilitato il processo di espansione di quelle colonie”. L’unico modo per le compagnie straniere di mitigare il proprio contributo alle violazioni israeliane “è quello di smettere di operare con e nelle colonie israeliane” ha dichiarato Arvind Ganesan, direttore della divisione Business and Human rights di Hrw.
Sotto la lente di ingrandimento di Hrw ci sono fra l’altro banche israeliane che finanziano la costruzione degli insediamenti ed immobiliari internazionali che vendono le proprietà. Sotto accusa anche le attività dell’esercito nell’Area C, il 62% della Cisgiordania.

Sorgente: Human Rights Watch: stop a relazioni economiche con colonie israeliane – contropiano.org

Alarming accounts of human rights violations of Palestinians

GENEVA (19 June 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, today expressed deep concern about the human rights situation of Palestinians living under the 48-year-long Israeli occupation.

Alarming accounts of human rights violations of Palestinians | Scoop News.

Sopravvissuto ad Auschwitz: “Mi identifico con i giovani palestinesi”


27/8/2014 The Electronic IntifadaAdri Nieuwhof.

Hajo Meyer, autore del libro La fine del giudaismo, è nato a Bielefeld, in Germania, nel 1924. Nel 1939, a 14 anni scappò da solo in Olanda per sfuggire al regime nazista, e non poté frequentare la scuola. L’anno seguente, quando i tedeschi occuparono l’Olanda, visse in clandestinità con un documento d’identità malamente contraffatto. Meyer  fu catturato dalla Gestapo nel marzo 1944 e deportato nel campo di concentramento di Auschwitz la settimana dopo. E’ uno degli ultimi sopravvissuti di Auschwitz.

Adri Nieuwhof: Cosa vorrebbe dire per presentarsi ai lettori di EI?

Hajo Meyer: Dovetti lasciare il liceo a Bielefeld dopo la Notte dei Cristalli [il pogrom di due giorni contro gli ebrei nella Germania nazista], del novembre 1938. Fu un’esperienza terribile per un ragazzino curioso e i suoi genitori. Pertanto, posso identificarmi completamente con i giovani palestinesi che subiscono restrizioni nell’istruzione. E non mi posso in alcun modo identificare con i criminali che rendono impossibile l’istruzione ai giovani palestinesi. 

AN: Cosa l’ha spinta a scrivere il libro, La fine del giudaismo?

HM: In passato, i media europei scrissero ampiamente dei politici di estrema destra come Joerg Haider in Austria e Jean-Marie Le Pen in Francia. Ma quando Ariel Sharon fu eletto [Primo Ministro] in Israele nel 2001, i media rimasero in silenzio. Ma nel 1980 capirono il pensiero profondamente fascista di questi politici. Con il libro ho voluto prendere le distanze da tutto questo. Sono cresciuto con l’eguaglianza di rapporti tra esseri umani nel giudaismo come valore fondamentale. Ho appreso del giudaismo nazionalista solamente quando ho sentito i coloni difendere, nelle interviste, le loro vessazioni contro i palestinesi.

Quando un editore mi ha chiesto di scrivere del mio passato, ho deciso di scrivere questo libro, in un certo senso, per affrontare il mio passato. Le persone di un gruppo che disumanizzano persone di un altro gruppo, lo possono fare o perché hanno imparato dai loro genitori, o perché è stato fatto loro il lavaggio del cervello dai leader politici. Questo è successo per decenni, in Israele, nel senso che manipolano l’Olocausto per i loro fini politici. A lungo andare il paese si sta distruggendo, portando i cittadini ebrei alla paranoia.

Nel 2005 [l’allora primo ministro Ariel] Sharon ha illustrato ciò dichiarando alla Knesset [il parlamento israeliano]: “Sappiamo che non possiamo fidarci di nessuno, possiamo fidarci solo di noi stessi”. Questa è la più breve definizione possibile di qualcuno che soffre di paranoia clinica. Una delle cose che mi dà più fastidio, è che Israele, con l’inganno, si definisce uno stato ebraico, mentre in realtà è sionista. Vuole il massimo del territorio con un numero minimo di palestinesi. Ho avuto 4 nonni ebrei. Sono ateo. Condivido l’eredità socio-culturale ebraica e ho imparato a conoscere l’etica ebraica. Non voglio essere rappresentato da uno stato sionista. Non hanno idea dell’Olocausto. Usano l’Olocausto per far crescere la paranoia nei loro figli.

AN: Nel suo libro, lei scrive delle lezioni che ha appreso dal suo passato. Può spiegare come il passato ha influenzato la sua percezione di Israele e Palestina?

HM: Non sono mai stato un sionista. Dopo la guerra, gli ebrei sionisti parlavano del miracolo di avere ”il nostro paese”. Da ateo convinto ho pensato, se questo è un miracolo di Dio, avrei voluto che avesse compiuto il più piccolo miracolo che si possa immaginare, creando lo stato 15 anni prima. Così i  miei genitori non sarebbero morti.

Posso scrivere una lista infinita di analogie tra la Germania nazista e Israele. L’acquisizione di terreni e di proprietà, il negare l’accesso all’istruzione e restringere la possibilità di guadagnarsi da vivere e distruggere la loro speranza, il tutto con lo scopo di cacciare la gente dalla propria terra. E quello che io personalmente trovo più sconvolgente: sporcarsi le mani uccidendo le persone. Ciò sta creando situazioni in cui le persone iniziano a uccidersi a vicenda. Quindi la distinzione tra vittime e colpevoli diventa debole. Seminando discordia in una situazione dove non c’è unità, ampliando il divario tra i popoli – come Israele sta facendo a Gaza.

AN: Nel suo libro lei scrive del ruolo degli ebrei nel movimento per la pace dentro e fuori Israele, e i refusenik dell’esercito israeliano. Come valuta il ​​loro contributo?

HM: Certo è positivo che parte della popolazione ebrea di Israele cerchi di vedere i palestinesi come esseri umani e come loro pari. Tuttavia, mi turba un po’  il numero che protesta ed è veramente anti-sionista. Siamo arrivati ad ottenere quello che è successo nella Germania di Hitler. Se si esprimeva un minimo accenno di critica all’epoca, si finiva nel campo di concentramento di Dachau. Se si esprimeva una critica, eri morto. Gli ebrei in Israele hanno diritti democratici. Possono protestare per le strade, ma non lo fanno.

AN: Può commentare la notizia che i ministri israeliani hanno approvato un progetto di legge che vieta la commemorazione della Nakba, o l’esproprio della Palestina storica? La legge propone pene fino a tre anni di carcere.

HM: E’ così razzista, così terribile. Sono a corto di parole. E’ l’espressione di quello che già sappiamo. [L’organizzazione israeliana commemorazione della Nakba] Zochrot è stata fondata per contrastare gli sforzi di Israele di spazzare via i segni che ricordano la vita palestinese. Per proibire ai palestinesi di commemorare pubblicamente la Nakba. Non possono agire in un modo più nazi-fascista. Forse aiuterà a svegliare il mondo.

AN: Quali sono i suoi progetti per il futuro?

HM: [Ride] Sai quanti anni ho? Ho quasi 85 anni. Dico sempre cinicamente e con autoironia che ho una scelta: o sono sempre stanco perché voglio fare così tanto, o mi siedo in attesa del tempo di morire. Beh, ho intenzione di essere stanco, perché ho ancora tanto da dire.

Adri Nieuwhof è consulente e difensore dei diritti umani in Svizzera.

Traduzione di Edy Meroli

(Nella foto: Hajo Meyer ritratto da Christiane Tilanus)

thanks to: The Electronic Intifada

Edy Meroli

Infopal

Top Israeli rights group blacklisted from national service program

August 15, 2014 17:25

Israelis gather during a protest calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv on August 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Gali Tibbon)

Israelis gather during a protest calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv on August 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Gali Tibbon)

Israel has banned young people from serving in one of its most prominent human rights groups as an alternative to military service because of its campaigns against the war in Gaza and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

B’Tselem is an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO), which was founded in 1989; one of its aims is to document human right’s abuses in the occupied territories.

Sar-Shalom Djerbi, the director of the Sherut Leumi, the national civilian service administration, which is responsible for the non-military options available to Israelis who don’t won’t to serve in the IDF said that B’Tselem had gone too far in its recent campaigning.

B’Tselem has “crossed the line in wartime [by] campaigning and inciting against the state of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force, which is the most moral of armies,” he told Channel 2 TV.

Djerbi set out his position in a letter to Hagai el-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem.

“This is especially relevant now, when the State of Israel is dealing with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens and is in the middle of a comprehensive campaign to remove the threat on its citizens,” he wrote.

He added that the activities of B’Tselem encourage “extreme anti-Semitic expressions against the State of Israel, as well as violent acts of anti-Semitism around the world.”

But Hagai el-Ad said the blacklisting was the latest in a campaign by the Israeli state of intimidation and threats against the rights group over the past three weeks, because of its vocal anti Gaza campaign.

Israelis gather during a protest calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all, in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv on August 14, 2014. (AFP Photo / Gali Tibbon)

B’Tselem called the letter a “political pamphlet” and that Djerbi was using his government position to attack a human rights organization.

“In a democracy, the authority to decide what is right and beneficial for society is vested in the citizens, not government functionaries,” the organization stated.

The organization had tried to get the names of Palestinian children killed in Operation Protective Edge aired on state TV, but was denied. B’Tselem’s appeal to the high court of justice was then rejected on Tuesday.

There have been death threats and violent attacks on B’Tselem employees, as well as an organized internet campaign against the group.

“The level of intimidation and the broadness of attacks on the organization over the past three weeks is unprecedented in the 25-year history of B’Tselem,” said Ad.

There has also been a surge in racism against Arabs in Israel over the past month and right wing Jews and ultra-nationalists have attacked peace rallies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“Until this day Arabs in Jerusalem were not afraid of gang violence against them on the streets of this city. This has never happened before, and still remains the situation in Jerusalem,” he said.

B’Tselem has called on Uri Orbach, the minister in charge of the national civic Service, who is also a member of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party to overturn the decision, but Orbach appeared to rule that out.

“Israel is in the midst of a difficult military and diplomatic campaign against terrorists. An organization that works to prove allegations that Israel is committing war crimes should be so good as to do so with its own resources and not with civilian national service volunteers and state funds,” he said, in a statement published by Reuters.

Israeli citizens have to carry out three years conscription when they turn 18, and the vast majority chooses to serve in the IDF. However, the government has been increasing the number of alternatives available to Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis and pacifists.

Despite the political rhetoric B’Tselem has just one position currently available for a volunteer who doesn’t want to serve in the IDF. The group has vowed it will continue its work.

thanks to: RT

 

Villagers From Pungeşti Stop Chevron Fracking Again, Riot Police Unleash Terror At Night In Retaliation

One of the poorest villages in Romania has been standing up against the US giant corporation Chevron for almost four months now. Subsequently, they are facing the Romanian State, brutality from riot police, and US army general Wesley Clark.

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A woman from Pungesti, Romania, refusing to move as ordered by the riot police protecting Chevron.

In an attempt to prevent fracking, villagers and activists broke the fences surrounding 22,000 acres of wide terrain, where Chevron is starting to explore for shale gas. The conflict has been mounting over the past week in particular, after the government imposed a military-style blockade against the village. The government police blocked the roads, basically isolating villagers: even children were not allowed to go to the near-by village school.

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With the help of activists from different Romanian cities, villagers managed to stop the explorations of Chevron on Saturday. The riot police, almost outnumbering them, failed to stop the resistors. The 500 strong anti-Chevron resistance defeated the 400 strong riot police, and managed to tear down the fences surrounding the explorations site. In anger, people threw stones at the Chevron equipment. The riot police responded with brutality.

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The following video shows how the villagers broke down the fences, chanting at the riot police: “Shame, shame on you!,” “Riot cops defend the thieves!,” “Romania: Police State!” During the conflict, riot cops broke the ribs of 25-year old Valentin Popa. “The police hit him with their sticks and with when he was on the ground they hit him with their boots,” villagers told a local paper.

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Private riot police were supported by the private security company hired by Chevron.

This video shows the private security agents attacking villagers with stones.

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While the conflict was still going on, Chevron issued a press release announcing they would again suspend their activities. Chevron proceeded to file a complaint against the local villagers for damaging their fences.

[LATER EDIT: The next day, Chevron issued another press release announcing they resumed their operations. People report local people being arrested at random in the village. 3 teenagers who were taking their cows to the commons were abducted by the riot police on Sunday morning and taken to the police station in Vaslui. All are underage.]

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Following this, dozens protesters were detained. 15 people will be prosecuted under the penal code, they risk at least 2 years of jail. 14 people will be criminally prosecuted for cursing the cops. 7 people were financially punished, and will be forced to pay fines from 500 lei to 5,000 lei for refusing to disobey the riot police’s orders. The fines are huge: 500 lei is almost the entire monthly pension of these people.

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A doctor from Vaslui, George Silvestrovici, tells the story of how he was illegally arrested and injured. “When I heard the police order people to move away, I left. In a hurry I fell and hurt my leg. I could not move, I stayed on the ground. Suddenly a riot police van came up and I was captured, with no explanation. I was taken to the police station in Vaslui, together with some dozens of protesters. They kept me there for 5 hours, no medical assistance, nothing. They never told me why they arrested me. Then suddenly they let us go. No explanation, nothing. This is an abuse.

After the skirmishes, some activists retired to their remaining tents that the riot police failed to dismantle days ago. The villagers ran to their homes, chased by the police, who blocked the road in and out of the village again.

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When night fell, the riot police unexpectedly unleashed terror against the village. They destroyed activists’ tents under the pretext of “being filthy,” as it happened in New York during the Occupy protests. A blockade was imposed again by the State troops, covering the entire Pungeşti commune.

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Riot police stormed into people’s houses, beating them, threatening them, and kidnapping them from their beds to take them to the police station. Some villagers were fined because they let activists sleep in their houses over night, “illegally.”

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People hid in their houses in darkness for fear of being attacked. 20 people were caught by the state thugs in the local store from the near-by village, Armăşoaia. They went there to keep warm, but were still brutally arrested by the riot police.

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Mariana Moroşanu, a local woman from the village Armăşoaia, called a TV station in Bucharest and described what happened: “Around 7:30 pm, I went to the local store for some groceries. Suddenly, a police van appeared down the road. 10 masked riot police descended. They ran towards us and started to hit us. They beat us brutally. They beat women and men, locals and visitors. They captured some people and threw them in their van. Someone threw a stone at their van. We will not give in, I tell you.”

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Vasile Lungu, a local man, confirmed this: “It was dark already and I was in the store. Suddenly masked riot cops stormed in. They started to hit us. A boy took out his phone to record what was happening. They attacked him and then they yelled at us that, if we dare film them, they will confiscate our phones. They ordered the lights out. A cousin of mine, who suffers from a handicap, and I were beaten just for being in the store. Then the riot cops told us: ‘If you tell anyone about this, we’ll be back.’”

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A witness wrote on Facebook how the riot cops were arresting people for simply walking down the streets, or from their houses and from a local bar. “I saw the riot police drag a local village man from his house into their van. They hit him repeatedly. Vlad Ioachimeacu and Claudiu Craciun were beaten. Hetti is running away so they won’t catch her. Let’s be clear. The riot police came to the village, when the night fell, to arrest the protesters they could not capture at the Chevron site during the day. Nobody is safe, not even the journalists. Nobody talks about this. If we don’t answer the phones, it means they took us in.”

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Another witness wrote this on her Facebook account: “They (the riot police) arrest people from their houses. They storm in, and beat people in their houses. We hide inside. The lights are out. We wait. What do we wait for? We don’t know. We’ve called 112 (the emergency police service) to ask for help, nothing happened. They said they can’t do anything about it. Outrageous!

Neocolonialism, the fracking way

What is happening at Pungeşti, one of the poorest places in Romania, is an all-out capitalist war. It has been underway for almost four months now. On one side are the US giant Chevron, lobbied among others by former US army general Wesley Clark,  the Romanian government and its armed thugs. On the other – the elderly poor locals from Pungeşti, parents and kids, and activists. Chevron, supported by the Romanian State, fights to get its hands on shale gas. The villagers continue to fight to save their land and water resources.

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On a side there is profit and military power. On the other people’s lives.

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On one side there is aggression, on the other self-defence.

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The Romanian State, who usually appear nationalistic and full of religious and patriotic values, is blatantly backing the US giant corporation. The Romanian government has given Chevron 22,000 acres of land in Pungeşti, by a special law, to start explorations for shale gas by hydraulic fracturing.

The government granted Chevron rights to explore for shale gas in three other places, in South-East Romania, in Constanţa county: Vama Veche, Adamclisi şi Costineşti.

The government ignored people’s fears that fracking would ruin water resources.

On the contrary, the government claims that fracking is essential for “Romania’s future development,” (classic government propaganda serving a capitalist agenda). They still have not justified why this “development” risks ruining people’s lives and destroying vital water resources.

Before the 2012 parliamentary elections, the current prime-minister, Victor Ponta opposed these deals, as he accused the former Prime-Minister, Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu (previously the chief of a secret Romanian service) for cutting a shady, secret deal. After he became Prime Minister, Ponta suddenly expressed support for Chevron and gave them the green light to start exploring. Him and the the Romanian president are the most staunch propagandists for Chevron.

How did this happen? It’s got a lot to do with the US Global Shale Gas Initiative.

Man in the shadows: former US Army General Wesley Clark presented as „an the excellent economist”, a.k.a fracking lobbyist

Victor Ponta, from the Social-Democrats, became prime-minister after huge street protests in Romania led to the sacking of two right-wing governments, backed by the current president. Soon after the coalition backing him won the local elections in the summer of 2012, and before they won the parliamentary elections too later that year, Ponta bragged he has a new adviser on issues of “economic strategy”: Wesley Clark, former US army general, whose order, while being NATO chief commander during the Kosovo war, for Russian troops to be attacked in Pristina was denied by a British general telling him: “I won’t start a third world war for you!”

Wesley_Clark_Feb_8,_2000

After he retired, he tried to run in the 2004 US presidential elections. Later on, Wesley Clark became executive at BNK Petroleum, which obtained licences to explore for shale gas in Poland, despite huge local opposition there.

Ponta explained how he was “so lucky” to meet Wesley Clark in Vienna, at a conference on energy, and convinced the former US army general to become his personal adviser: “I was incredibly lucky to meet (Clark). It is a great chance. General Clark is an extraordinary economist, he is involved at the highest level in developing economic strategies. He is a man anyone would want to work for him, and no prime-minister would miss such an opportunity.

ponta-basescu

While visiting Romania in the summer of 2012, Wesley Clark declared: “I know shale gas has a great future in Romania. I think I can convince investors to come here and to help Romania’s economic growth. We know there is a global energy revolution underway, and Romania has lots of such resources. There are also lots of water resources which could be used to produce energy. I think Romania can become a major energy exporter,” in an interview for a local paper.

After the riot police imposed a military-style blockade against the people of Pungeşti, following their relentless resistance, the Romanian Prime Minister saluted the brutality of the police beating people: “I praise the riot police for their actions (beating old defenseless people) at Pungeşti. They enforced the law.

Locals are determined to resist Chevron, the government and their riot police, as the tensions grow day by day.

In another development, the local mayor of Oradea, north-west Romanian, refused a request by a Hungarian company, a subcontractor of Russian Gazprom, to start exploring for shale gas. Local media saluted the mayor’s refusal for saving their water resources.

Weeks ago, villagers from central Romania county of Sibiu blocked similar explorations by a Romanian company. Resistors took the company’s equipment and banned them from their land, despite being attacked and threatened by the police.

thanks to: revolution-news

UN Resolution Against US Spying

Projet de résolution de l’Onu contre l’espionnage US

À l’initiative du Brésil, une vingtaine d’États préparent une proposition de résolution de l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies pour garantir la confidentialité des communications par Internet (voir brouillon ci-dessous).

Bien que la NSA n’y soit pas citée, cette initiative est dirigée contre les États-Unis dont l’espionnage de masse viole le Pacte des droits civils et politiques et la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’homme. Elle fait obligation aux États-membres de prendre les mesures nécessaires à la protection de la vie privée de leurs ressortissants et demande au Secrétaire général de présenter des rapports sur l’application de ces mesures.

Le document insiste sur l’incompatibilité de ce type d’espionnage avec la notion même de démocratie.

Depuis 1948, les États-Unis, le Royaume-Uni, l’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande se sont lancés dans un vaste programme d’espionnage de leurs alliés afin de les maintenir dans une situation de dépendance. Si ce dispositif est connu de très longue date, il n’a cessé de se développer avec les moyens de télécommunication numériques. Les révélations d’Edgard Snowden ont contribué à attirer l’attention du grand public sur cette surveillance de masse.

_____

UN Draft on Privacy

The General Assembly,

Reaffirming the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Reaffirming the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic,Social and Cultural rights,

Reaffirming also the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action,

Noting that the exercise of human rights, in particular the right to privacy on the Internet, is an issue of increasing interest and importance as the rapid pace of technological developmentenables individuals in all regions to use new information and communications technologies [A/HRC/RES/20/8], and at the same time enhances the capacity of Governments, companies and individuals for surveillance, decryption and mass data collection, which may severely intrudewith a person’s right to privacy,

Welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression submitted to the Human Rights Council at its twenty third session, on the implications of the surveillance of private communications and the indiscriminate interception of the personal data of citizens on the exercise of the human right to privacy,

Reaffirming the human right of individuals to privacy and not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the right to enjoy protection of the law against such interferences and attacks [new, based on article 17 of theICCPR] , and recognizing that the exercise of the right to privacy is an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression and to hold opinions without interference, and one of the foundations of a democratic society [new, based on the report A/HRC/23/40 (para24) of the Special Rapporteur],

Noting that while concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information, States must ensure full compliance with international human rights [statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, NaviPillay, on September 20th, 2013],

Emphasizing that illegal surveillance of private communications and the indiscriminate interception of personal data of citizens constitutes a highly intrusive act that violates the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society [new,based on the report A/HRC/23/40 (para 81) of the Special Rapporteur],

Deeply concerned at human rights violations and abuses that may result from the conduct of extra-territorial surveillance or interception of communications in foreign jurisdictions [new,based on the report A/HRC/23/40 (para 87) of the Special Rapporteur],

Recalling that States must ensure that measures taken to counter terrorism comply with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law [A/HRC/RES/19/19, OP1],

Stressing also the importance of the full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information, including the fundamental importance of access to information and democratic participation [PP6 of A/HRC/RES/12/16, Freedom of opinion and expression],

1. Reaffirms the rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, inparticular the right to privacy and not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the right to enjoy protection of the law against such interference or attacks, in accordance with article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [new] ;

2. Recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in acceleratingprogress towards development in its various forms [OP2 of A/HRC/RES/20/8] ;

3. Affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular the right to privacy, including in the context of the surveillance of communications [based onOP1 of A/HRC/RES/20/8] ;

4. Calls upon all States :

(a) To respect and ensure the respect for the rights referred to in paragraph 1 above [new, based on OP4a) of A/HRC/RES/12/16] ;

(b) To take measures to put an end to violations of these rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations, including by ensuring that relevant national legislation complies with their international human rights obligations and is effectively implemented [new, based onOP4b) of A/HRC/RES/12/16] ;

(c) To review their procedures, practices and legislation regarding the extra-territorial surveillance of private communications and interception of personal data of citizens in foreign jurisdictions with a view towards upholding the right to privacy and ensuring the full and effective implementation of all their obligations under international human rights law [based on the reportA/HRC/23/40 (paras 64 and 83) of the Special Rapporteur] ;

(d) To establish independent oversight mechanisms capable to ensure transparency and accountability of State surveillance of communications [based on the report A/HRC/23/40 (para93) of the Special Rapporteur] ;

5. Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to present an interim report on the issue of human rights and indiscriminate surveillance, including on extra-territorial surveillance, to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session, and a final report at its seventieth session, with views and recommendations, to be considered by Member States, with the purpose of identifying and clarifying principles, standards and best practices on the implications for human rights of indiscriminate surveillance [new] ;

6. Decides to examine the question on a priority basis at its sixty-ninth session, under the sub-item entitled “Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms” of the item entitled “Promotion and protection of human rights” [new] .”

thanks to: voltairenet

China rejects UN states’ recommendations on human rights in Tibet

DHARAMSHALA, October 25: China has rejected concerns raised by UN member states on its human rights record saying, “Some countries in their comments equated security actions to protect civilians as ethnic cleaning, and called certain criminals in China as human rights defenders. Normal judicial procedures were called political persecution. This is a typical case of politicizing human right. The best persons to know human rights in China are Chinese.”

China further claimed that Beijing has made many improvements in promoting and protecting the rights of its citizens.

Several United Nations member states have expressed need for China to improve the human rights situation in Tibet during the Universal Periodic Review of China’s human rights record in Geneva.

Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Iceland questioned China on human rights situation inside Tibet. These nations also highlighted issues such as lack of religious freedom, minority rights, access for UN officials to Tibet, and called on China to resume dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.

New Zealand urged China to resume dialogue with Tibet to address the interests of all communities in Tibet while Iceland recommended facilitating access for Special Rapporteurs to various human rights issues in Tibetan areas.

Poland noted the joint communications of eight Special Procedures with regards to alleged systematic attempts to undermine the rights to freedom of religion, culture and expression of the Tibetan Buddhist community. It further recommended that China take necessary measures to ensure that the right to religion, culture and expression are fully observed and protected in every administrative entity of China.

In 2009 report of China’s UPR, China accepted some recommendations on the promotion of human rights in general but played down recommendations including measures to provide freedom of information and expression; ensure the independence of the judiciary and lawyers; safeguard detainees’ access to counsel; protect lawyers from attacks and harassment; and grant freedom of religion and movement to ethnic minorities such as Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Since 2009, 122 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet protesting against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

A well-known Chinese dissident and democracy activist Yang Jianli said, “Today I was struck by China’s ability to tell such blatant lies with a straight face. This is another example of why China does not deserve to be re-elected to the Human Rights Council. China’s re-election defies logic reason and common sense. We need look no further than the Tibetans, who have received unspeakable suffering at the hands of this regime.”

thanks to: Phayul

Papuans Behind Bars: September 2013

 

In brief

At the end of September 2013, there were at least 53 political prisoners in Papuan jails. In Waghete, a civilian was killed and four were arrested in a sweeping operation by police Mobile Brigade special  forces. There were scores of arrests of civilians and activists in relation to demonstrations celebrating the International Day of Democracy. Well-known activists were targeted in Biak and Yapen islands where processions were held to welcome the sacred water and ashes delivered by a Freedom Flotilla from Australia. In Waena, a civilian was arbitrarily detained and tortured by police.

Boas Gombo and Dipenus Wenda have both been released. There have been reported concerns for the mental health of Yohanes Borseren and Obeth Kamesrar. A report by KontraS Papua revealed pressing concerns about the health of prisoners and living conditions in Abepura prison. The parole application  by the five detainees in the case of the Wamena ammunitions store raid has been rejected, while the four detainees in the Yalengga flag-raising case are seeking remission.

Arrests

Civilian fatally shot and four arrested by Brimob officers in sweeping operation in Waghete

An article by Tabloid Jubi reported the fatal shooting of civilian Alpius Mote in Waghete by  police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers who were conducting a sweeping operation on 23 September. The two  officers were reportedly involved in a stop and search operation in Waghete market when they stopped two elderly men in a search for weapons. This caused protests from people who had gathered, leading to stones being thrown at the two officers. In response, the two officers fired into the crowd, causing the death of Alpius Mote, a university student, and injuring three others – Aprida Dogopia, Alex Mote and Frans Dogopia.

There were also reports that the officers targeted men with dreadlocks and beards. A statement by political prisoner Selpius Bobii described this tactic as an attack on indigenous Papuan customs. It is allegedly used by officers  to single out those they claim are ‘separatists’. The statement by Bobii also reported the arrests of four civilians following the shooting, although it is unclear if they remain in detention. Human Rights Watch has called for Indonesia to investigate the possible use of unnecessary  lethal force by police officers.

Scores arrested across Papua for celebrating the International Day of Democracy

Several Papuan human rights sources and news sites  reported that on 16 September  at least 94 people were arrested and  then released without charge as police moved to disperse demonstrations across Papua celebrating the International Day of Democracy on 15 September. Thousands of Papuans took part in the demonstrations,  which also supported Vanuatu’s intention of raising the question of West Papua’s political status at the 68th session of the  United Nations General Assembly in September.

The Papuan National police had issued a ban on demonstrations on 11 September, rejecting a notice  by the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) of their intention to demonstrate in several cities on 16 September, reportedly because the KNPB logo used in the notice contained a symbol of the Papuan Morning Star flag.  Sources on the ground and news sites  reported that tear gas was used in the Jayapura suburb of Waena to disperse demonstrators.

Sentani

According to a comprehensive report  by a local human rights investigator, there were two separate incidents in the Jayapura suburb of Sentani which led to the arrests of 29 people. A KNPB activist quoted in the report stated that at 07.00 Papuan time, nine demonstrators consisting of four KNPB activists and five civilians were arrested in Sentani Sektor Toladan by the Sentani Sub-District police. Other local activists reported that police  used intimidatory tactics on the peaceful demonstrators and  blockaded the demonstration at several spots in efforts to disperse the demonstration. The nine arrested were detained in Sentani Sub-District police station before being released without charge several hours later.

In a separate arrest in Sentani Sektor Gunung Merah, Jayapura Regional police arrested 20 demonstrators at approximately 07.15. The demonstrators were led by KNPB leader Alen Halitopo, who was one of the 20 people arrested. An article on the KNPB website stated that demonstrators were kicked and ill-treated by the police who confiscated items used in the demonstration. They were detained in Jayapura Regional police station for  more than an hour before being released without charge.

The KNPB  source also stated that in Sektor Prodadi the police dispersed demonstrators  who were heading towards the Old Market in Sentani. They confiscated megaphones, KNPB flags and banners.

Waena

Reports were received of two separate arrests in Waena where a total of 10 people were detained before being released without charge. The  comprehensive report mentioned above detailed the arrest of three KNPB activists – Agus Kosay, Ucak Logo and Jon Komba – at around 07.00  in front of the campus of Cenderawasih University where orations were taking place as part of the demonstration. They were released from Papua Regional police station without charge five hours later.

The West Papua online news magazine, Majalah Selangkah reported a second round of arrests at 09.00,  when a joint army and police task force arrested seven KNPB activists – Warius Warpo Wetipo, Henny Rumkorem, Uum Himan, Anton Gobay, Yas Wenda, Yufri Wenda and Rinal Wenda. Police allegedly beat the activists on arrest and confiscated their brochures and banners. Demonstrators  allegedly tried to negotiate with the security forces, who had set up blockades, before they were forcibly dispersed. Sources on the ground and news reports  stated that police  used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators in Waena. The Head of the Jayapura Regional police, Kiki Kurnia, told Tabloid Jubi that before using teargas, the security forces  gave the demonstrators five minutes to disperse as the demonstration had not been given  “permission” to go ahead by the authorities.

Taman Imbi, Jayapura

According to the same article by Majalah Selangkah, 14 KNPB activists were detained in Taman Imbi, Jayapura, before they could deliver speeches at the demonstration planned there. They were released without charge at 11.40 after being detained at Jayapura Regional police station for four hours.

Sorong

The  report mentioned above also detailed two separate arrests in Sorong where a total of 27 people were detained before being released without charge. At around 9.00, Sorong Regional police arrested 20 people, most of them KNPB activists. KNPB Sorong leader Martinus Yohami led the march towards Toko Tio. Police allegedly stopped the demonstrators and made the arrest when they unfurled a banner which stated “Indonesia Open Democratic Space in Papua, Stop the Violence.” The 20 people arrested were detained for six hours in Sorong Regional police station before being released without charge. A separate arrest  took place in front of the King Mosque in Sorong city where seven people were arrested and also detained in Sorong Regional police station. They were released at the same time as the other 20.

Nabire

Local activists reported the arrests of 14 KNPB activists in Nabire by joint army and police forces at demonstrations held on 16 September. They were reportedly beaten on arrest, with five of the activists – Otto Kudiai, Yafet Keiya, Anipa Pigai, Agustina and Yulianus Nawipa – receiving particularly severe beatings which resulted in serious injuries. Items used in the demonstration were confiscated. Upon pressure from the Head of Parliament for the Meepago Region, Habel Nawipa, the 14 activists were released from Nabire Regional police station without charge.

In Timika,  local activists reported the Mimika Regional police using intimidatory  tactics against demonstrators.  Celebrations of the International Day of Democracy also took place in Dogiyai, Yahukimo, Merauke, Timika, Manokwari and Biak, though no arrests have been reported in these areas.

Dozens of Biak and Yapen islands activists arrested in connection with planned procession welcoming Aborginal sacred water and ashes delivered by Freedom Flotilla

According to reports from human rights sources in Papua, four activists were arrested and  released in Biak, while Edison Kendi and Demianus Burumi were arrested and subsequently released in Yapen in police attempts to hinder processions on both islands. The processions were planned – on 20 September in Biak and 26 September in Yapen – to welcome the sacred water and ashes which were delivered by the well-publicised Freedom Flotilla from Aboriginal leaders in Australia.

Biak island

A report received by  email and an article posted  on the Freedom Flotilla  website described the arrest of four community leaders in Biak on 18 September. The four men – Piet Hein Manggaprouw, Klemens Rumsarwir, Yoris Berotabui and Yan Piet Mandibodibo – had arrived at the Biak Numfor Regional police station  to request an acknowledgement of their  notice to demonstrate  submitted two days earlier on 16 September. Upon arrival at the police station, they were separated into different rooms and were interrogated for 17 hours.

During the interrogation, they were threatened with charges of treason reportedly because the  notice had used a letterhead containing the logo of the pro-independence movement of the Federal Republic State of West Papua (Negara Federal Republik Papua Barat, NFRPB). Throughout their interrogation, the four men were denied food and communication with their families. Their handphones were also confiscated. At around 02.00 on 19 September, they were driven back home by a police truck guarded by three fully-armed police officers and one plainclothes officer.  Later that morning at 11.00, they were again brought in to be interrogated at the Biak Numfor regional police before being released 12 hours later at 23.00. Police  allegedly instructed them to cancel all plans to carry out the procession, and  told them that they  had to report to the police once every 24 hours.

Despite a heavy police and military presence, the procession  went ahead as planned on 20 September. On this day, as Piet Hein Manggaprouw and Yoris Berotabui were on their way to report to the Biak Numfor Regional police, they were stopped by several intelligence officers and forced into a vehicle. While observing the procession from within the vehicle, the intelligence officers allegedly forced the two men to identify NFRPB activists  in the procession. They then drove to the airport where the two men were  forced to identify Dr Frans Kapisa, who had flown in to Biak to deliver the sacred water and ashes.

The intelligence officers  reportedly communicated with other police authorities via walkie talkie on possible plans to shoot Kapisa upon his arrival and to shoot other activist leaders involved in the processions welcoming the sacred water and ashes. Amongst the activists mentioned were Edison Kendi, Markus Yenu and Marthinus Wandamani. The officers  also allegedly discussed strategies to disperse demonstrators forcefully, including beating or shooting demonstrators who disobeyed orders.

We understand that the four community leaders have not been charged with any offence and are not currently reporting to the police.

Yapen island

On 25 September, at around 17.00, Yapen Regional police  reportedly aired an announcement via Indonesian national radio instructing civilians not to go ahead with their planned procession on 26 September. Later that evening, at around 20.30, 20 plainclothes police officers and 2 Kopassus army special forces officers, some armed with M-16s and pistols, arrived at the residence of Edison Kendi in Serui, Yapen island, to arrest him. He was  detained reportedly because of his involvement in  the procession  on 26 September. The police  allegedly stated that in accordance with the Law on Mass Organisations, consent to demonstrate would not be given to groups that were not registered with the Department for National Unity and Politics (Kesatuan Bangsa dan Politik, Kesbangpol), a government body within the Interior Ministry. The arrest was led by the Head of Criminal Investigation within the Yapen Regional police. Kendi is currently undergoing investigations in Yapan Regional police station. Following his arrest, at around 22.10, two police trucks arrived at Kendi’s house and reportedly ransacked the residence in search of documents related to pro-independence activity.

The following day, on 26 September, at around 07.25, Yapen Regional police arrested Demianus Burumi as he was on his way to Serui airport to welcome Dr. Frans Kapisa who had come from Biak island, carrying with him the sacred water and ashes.

The latest information indicates that Kendi and Burumi have been released from detention.

A report from a human rights investigator stated that the procession in Mantembu village on 26 September was forcefully dispersed at around 11.30 by a joint army and Yapen Regional police task force. The police attempted to arrest Kapisa and Markus Yenu but the crowd positioned themselves in a way that allowed the two men to escape arrest. According to the report, security forces are still on guard in Mantembu village.

Online Papuan sources report that police are also targeting other Yapen activists for arrest, including Tinus Wandamani, Yan Piet Maniambo, Hendrik Warmetan, Pieter Hiowati and Heppi Daimboa. As reported in the August update, police employed similar tactics in Sorong city, where four community leaders – Apolos Sewa, Yohanis Goram Gaman, Amandus Mirino and Samuel Klasjok – were arrested after a prayer session and statement to the press in solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla. The four men were also instructed to report to the police and have been charged with treason and incitement.

Releases

Boas Gombo released following mental health decline

Information  from a local human rights source  expressed concern about the declining  mental health of Boas Gombo, who was released on parole on 27 September. Boas Gombo was arrested on 28 February 2013 and  sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment in Abepura prison after being convicted under  Article 66 of Law 24/2009 on the Flag, Language, Symbols of the State and the National Anthem.  His mental health has declined rapidly since 11 September 2013, reportedly due to the severe beatings he  suffered, including multiple blows to the head, during his detention in Muara Tami District Police station. He did not reportedly receive adequate medical treatment whilst in Abepura prison, and was instead only given sedatives.  He will be required to report to authorities for two months.

Dipenus Wenda released after almost ten years in prison

Human rights lawyers have reported the release of Dipenus Wenda on 19 August. His release was part of the 17 August Independence Day remissions.  Wenda was arrested on 28 March 2004 while giving out leaflets campaigning for an election boycott. He spent nine years and seven months in detention in Wamena prison.

Political trials and cases overview

Parole application for case of Wamena ammunition store raid rejected

The Democracy Alliance for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) has reported that a parole application submitted by one of its lawyers on behalf the five detainees in the Wamena ammunition store raid case has been rejected. The authorities at the Directory General of Correctional Facilities (Direktor Jenderal Permasyarakatan, Dirjen Pas) reportedly stated that the parole application was not  received despite the lawyer’s insistence that it was submitted last year. When asked for  clarification,  the authorities at Dirjen Pas explained that a complete application was necessary for  the matter to be considered. This meant that two documents had to be submitted – a Letter of Assurance and a Statement of Loyalty to the Republic of Indonesia –  as the five detainees were charged with treason. The detainees rejected signing a Statement of Loyalty, which therefore disqualified their application for parole. Applications for parole go through different stages of consideration, starting from prison authorities to the Regional Office for Law and Human Rights in Papua and finally to Dirjen Pas.

The five men – Apotnalogolik Lokobal, Kimanus Wenda, Linus Hiel Hiluka, Jefrai Murib and Numbungga Telenggen – were charged with treason under Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. They were arrested in April/May 2003, as part of sweeping operations by the military in which nine people were killed and 38 tortured.

Yalengga flag-raising detainees seek remission

ALDP has reported that the four men in the Yalengga flag-raising case – Meki Elosak, Wiki Meaga, Oskar Hilago and Obed Kosay –  sought remission as part of the 17 August Independence Day remission deal. When an inquiry was made into their situation, Wamena prison authorities reportedly stated that the four men will receive remission from Dirjen Pas. This arrangement was therefore not part of the 17 August remissions which are instead administered by the Regional Office for Law and Human Rights in Papua. Lawyers for the four men will also appeal for clemency. The four men continue to be detained in Wamena prison.

Concerns of mental health of 1 May detainees

Information received from human rights sources in Papua reported concerns for Yohanes Boseren in the Biak 1 May case and Obeth Kamesrar in the Aimas 1 May case. Both men were arrested this year in relation to the peaceful activities commemorating the 1 May 50th anniversary  of the administrative transfer of Papua to Indonesia. Borseren was severely beaten on arrest,  and received multiple blows to the head. Obeth Kamesrar, an elderly detainee at 68-years old, has reportedly been silent since his arrest and appears to be suffering from trauma.

Cases of concern

Civilian arbitrarily detained and tortured by Waena police

The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Desk of the Protestant Church in Papua (GKI-TP) has reported the arbitrary arrest and torture of a civilian in Waena. On 26 September, Nahor Stefanus Yalak was arrested by Waena police allegedly because of complaints by residents  that he was making too much noise in the area. At 19.00, the police brought Yalak to a nearby police post where he was tortured. Yalak was reportedly made to lie on the floor with his hands tied as the police wearing heavy boots stamped on his hands, and kicked and beat him on the back of his hand, face, back, thighs and knees. He was also whipped on the back with a thick cable. An officer also reportedly ripped a crucifix necklace from Yalak’s neck.  An hour later,  he was taken to the Abepura District Police station where he was detained overnight before being released at 07.30 the following morning. Yalak sustained serious injuries and has difficulty walking.

KontraS Papua report reveals concerns of inadequate medical care and living conditions in Abepura prison

A report received from the human rights organisation, KontraS Papua, on their visit to Abepura prison in August has revealed pressing concerns about inadequate medical healthcare and living conditions in Abepura prison. Jefrai Murib,  reported in  the July update as requiring immediate treatment for his stroke, is making a slow recovery despite the inadequate medical care he is receiving. He is now able to move his hand and is regaining his sense of touch. Prison authorities still do not  comply with recommendations concerning the required number  of hospital appointments. The KontraS Papua report stated that prison authorities often cited reasons of lack of transport, staff or time to postpone sending Murib to  hospital.

The report also reveals other concerns, including the lack of nutrition in prison meals, inadequate bedding and clean water, and faulty toilet facilities. Prisoners often have to lift containers of water from tanks when the bathroom pipes stop working. Ferdinand Pakage, who suffers from severe headaches, is reportedly unable to carry heavy items due to this condition and often experiences harsh pains  if forced to do so. The report states that Pakage is given inadequate medicine to treat his headaches which do not heal him of his pain. According to one doctor at Abepura prison, Pakage’s headaches are caused by a clogged vein and further treatment should be sought. However when KontraS Papua staff asked for further details, other Abepura staff were not aware of any plans to seek further medical treatment for Pakage.  The condition of Filep Karma, who has been suffering from the effects of heart disease, has reportedly improved.

Police raid residence of ex-political prisoner Buchtar Tabuni

Majalah Selangkah reported a raid on the residence of Buchtar Tabuni in Jayapura by a joint army and police task force on 26 September. The raid was led by the Head of the Jayapura Regional police, Alfret Papare, the Head Police Commissioner, Kiki Kurnia, and the Head of Abepura District police,  assisted by  Infantry from the Regional Military Command. The security forces reportedly arrived in four vehicles and were fully armed. They searched the whole house,  looking for Buchtar Tabuni. A few KNPB members who came to the residence seeking answers to why the house was being raided, were  then threatened  by the security forces. They left at 16.00 and headed to Jayapura city. Apparently, no reason was given  why they were conducting the raid.

News

16 political prisoners in Abepura prison sign a letter of support in response to Vanuatu’s General Assembly statement on human rights in Papua

On 28 September 2013, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, Moana Kalosil Carcasses, called on the UN to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua and the territory’s political status. 16 political prisoners in Abepura prison signed a letter of support  for the statement and expressed their thanks to the Prime Minister and the Republic of Vanuatu for their commitment and consistency in supporting the West Papuan cause.

September 2013 Papuan political prisoners

  Prisoner Arrested Charges Sentence Case Accused of violence? Concerns reported re legal process? Prison
1 Victor Yeimo 13 May 2013 160 3 years  (handed down in 2009) 2009 demo; 13 May Jayapura demo No Yes Abepura
2 Astro Kaaba 3 May 2013 Treason Unknown Yapen police death Yes Trial pending Serui police station
3 Hans Arrongear Unknown Treason Unknown Yapen police death Yes Trial pending Serui police station
4 Oktovianus Warnares 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
5 Yoseph Arwakon 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
6 Yohanes Boseren 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
7 Markus Sawias 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
8 George Syors Simyapen 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
9 Jantje Wamaer 1 May 2013 106, Emergency Law 12/1951 Unknown Biak flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Yes Biak police custody
10 Domi Mom 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
11 Alfisu Wamang 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
12 Musa Elas 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
13 Eminus Waker 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
14 Yacob Onawame 1 May 2013 Treason Unknown Timika flag-raising, 1 May commemoration No Trial pending Timika
15 Hengky Mangamis 30 April 2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
16 Yordan Magablo 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
17 Obaja Kamesrar 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
18 Antonius Safuf 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
19 Obeth Kamesrar 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
20 Klemens Kodimko 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration No Yes Sorong police station
21 Isak Klaibin 30 April2013 106, 107, 108, 110, 160 and 164 Trial ongoing Aimas shootings, 1 May commemoration; accused of being TPN/OPM No Yes Sorong police station
22 Yahya Bonay 27 April 2013 Unknown Unknown Yapen policedeath Yes Trial pending Serui police custody
23 Atis Rambo Wenda 4 April 2013 170 10 months Accused of violent crime Yes Yes Abepura
24 Yogor Telenggen 10 March 2013 340, 338, 170, 251, Emergency Law 12/1951 Awaiting trial Pirime shootings 2012 Yes Yes Papua Provincial police station
25 Isak Demetouw(alias Alex Makabori) 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
26 Daniel Norotouw 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
27 Niko Sasomar 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
28 Sileman Teno 3 March 2013 110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Sarmi arrests No Trial pending Sarmi
29 Andinus Karoba 10 October 2012 365(2), Law 8/1981 1 year 10 months Demak activist accused of theft Yes Yes Abepura
30 Yan Piet Maniamboy 9 August 2012 106 Trial ongoing Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen No Yes Serui
31 Edison Kendi 9 August 2012 106 Trial ongoing Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen No Yes Serui
32 Jefri Wandikbo 7 June 2012 340, 56, Law 8/1981 8 years Accused of violent crime in Wamena Yes Yes Abepura
33 Timur Wakerkwa 1 May 2012 106 2.5 years 1 May demo and flag-raising No No Abepura
34 Darius Kogoya 1 May 2012 106 3 years 1 May demo and flag-raising No No Abepura
35 Bastian Mansoben 21 October 2012 Emergency Law 12/1951 Trial ongoing Biak explosives case Possession of explosives No Biak
36 Forkorus Yaboisembut 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
37 Edison Waromi 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
38 Dominikus Surabut 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
39 August Kraar 19 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
40 Selphius Bobii 20 October 2011 106 3 years Third Papua Congress No Yes Abepura
41 Wiki Meaga 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
42 Oskar Hilago 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
43 Meki Elosak 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
44 Obed Kosay 20 November 2010 106 8 years Yalengga flag-raising No Yes Wamena
45 Yusanur Wenda 30 April 2004 106 17 years Wunin arrests Yes No Wamena
46 George Ariks 13 March 2009 106 5 years Unknown Unknown No Manokwari
47 Filep Karma 1 December 2004 106 15 years Abepura flag-raising 2004 No Yes Abepura
48 Ferdinand Pakage 16 March 2006 214 15 years Abepura case 2006 Yes Yes Abepura
49 Jefrai Murib 12 April 2003 106 Life Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Abepura
50 Linus Hiel Hiluka 27 May 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Nabire
51 Kimanus Wenda 12 April 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Nabire
52 Numbungga Telenggen 11 April 2003 106 Life Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Biak
53 Apotnalogolik Lokobal 10 April 2003 106 20 years Wamena ammunition store raid Yes Yes Biak 

Papuans Behind Bars aims to provide accurate and transparent data, published in English and Indonesian, to facilitate direct support for prisoners and promote wider debate and campaigning in support of free expression in West Papua.

Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. It is a grassroots initiative and represents a broad collaboration between lawyers, human rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and individuals in West Papua, as well as Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.

Questions, comments and corrections are welcomed, and you can write to us at info@papuansbehindbars.org

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Aid agencies accused of ignoring rights abuses in Ethiopia USAID DFID

Several major aid agencies have been blamed for not addressing rights violations in Ethiopia, including those linked to their programmes in the country. Samuel Loewenberg reports.

The World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the UK’s Department for Inter- national Development (DFID) have consistently failed to act on allegations of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, including ones that are tied to their aid programmes, according to new reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Oakland Institute, a California-based think tank. The Ethiopia case is a microcosm of the issues regularly faced by wealthy western governments and international aid organisations attempting to provide health and other types of foreign assistance to governments with questionable records on issues like human rights, corruption, and governance. Ethiopia is one of the biggest recipients of foreign aid money, according to the Oakland Institute, receiving an average of US$3·5 billion a year from donors, which accounts for more than half of its national budget. Ethiopia is often held up as an example of the success of foreign aid and global health programmes. The number of people requiring emergency food assistance, for example, has dropped from 15 million in 2003 to 5·6 million in 2012, according to USAID. The reports raise troubling questions over alleged abuses—including beatings, rape, and murder—connected to the government’s villagisation programme, described as being the forcible relocation of 1·5 million people to new villages where they are “The reports conclude that the aid agencies need to take responsibility for the effect their development money is having in Ethiopia.” promised access to health services and infrastructure. Instead, the villagers find that they have been moved to arid areas without the promised services. Although the aid agencies do not directly support the villagisation programme, the billions of dollars they provide in development aid can be used by the government in myriad ways: money is fungible. The reports conclude that the aid agencies need to take responsibility for the effect their development money is having in Ethiopia. They also bring into question the accuracy of the country’s health data and the issue of at what cost claimed successes are being achieved. An HRW report on the programme from last year found that Ethiopian “state security forces [were] repeatedly threatening, assaulting, and arbitrarily arresting villagers who resist transfer”. The group claims to have found at least seven incidences when people died as a result of their beatings by government forces. The Ethiopian Government has firmly denied all the allegations, describing them as politically motivated. DFID, the World Bank, and USAID say they have examined the allegations but have not found sufficient evidence of abuses or forced relocation. According to the latest HRW report, however, “The Bank failed to appropriately monitor human rights risks related to the program, or to meaningfully respond to the concerns about such violations when they were identified by third parties”. The organisation urged Bank officials to explicitly make human rights part of its mandate and to develop standardised procedures for making sure its programmes do not directly or indirectly support such abuses. The report by the Oakland Institute documents how officials from USAID and DFID, who were investigating claims of abuse, heard first-hand accounts from villagers recounting brutal treatment by Ethiopian authorities under the villagisation programme. But even after these reports the two agencies failed to act. The Oakland Institute report’s author, Will Hurd, worked as a translator for the assessment team interviewing villagers in the Lower Omo Valley, and includes transcripts of the agencies’ interviews. One exchange, regarding the alleged appropriation of tribal land by the Ethiopian Government, is revealing: a villager tells the foreign representatives, “the Ethiopian Government comes and takes up all our land and give us violence, and they rape our wives…If they give us violence and we are killed off then the highlanders can take over the land.” According to the transcript, one of the DFID representatives responded: “we agree that it’s unacceptable, beatings and rapes and lack of consultation and proper compensation, to discuss plans, is something we will raise”. However, the representative continued, “we don’t want to be here saying, yeah, we can go back and say to them ‘stop your plantations’ and they’ll say ‘yes, okay, fine, because you think we should we will’, because that won’t happen”. The USAID representative added: “Yeah, I don’t think we should raise expectations that we can do more than what we can.” All three agencies tell The Lancet that they have not found evidence of abuses or forced relocation connected with their funding. “It is completely wrong to suggest that British development money is used to force people from their homes. Our assistance has helped millions of people in Ethiopia”, says a DFID spokesman. “We condemn all human rights abuses and, where we have evidence, we raise our concerns at the very highest level.” Wahide Belay, the head of public diplomacy at the Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington, DC, dismisses the allegations of human rights abuses, and stressed his government’s close ties to Britain and the USA. Although those governments had sometimes raised concerns, he says that it was an issue of cultural perspective. “Nobody in this world is perfect. We are building democracy”, said Belay. “Who said we are perfect ? But there is no deliberate stifling of human rights in Ethiopia, not at all.” Anuradha Mittal, head of the Oakland Institute, says that donors should stop programmes tied to human rights abuses. They have made “a political choice” to continue their support, she says. “At what cost are we going to maintain this partnership? Are we going to look the other way when you have genuine accounts of human rights abuses?” Despite the continued reports of abuses by the Ethiopian Government, the country, which is bordered by Somalia, Sudan, and Kenya, has been viewed by the USA as a crucial strategic ally in a region rocked by crises. A 2012 USAID report found that “the positive role played by Ethiopia within the Horn of Africa region is a strong basis for US constructive engagement with Ethiopia, despite problems such as the democracy deficit”. USAID officials said that they have tried to address the human rights issues in Ethiopia and other countries through integrating their pro-democracy efforts within their development programmes. “The dilemma in all of these authoritarian settings, is how much through programming you can do to promote broader political space….You try and do as much as you can; in many cases you can’t do much because the restrictions are so great to start with”, says David W Yang, the Director of the USAID’s Center “Rather than rights, the primary drivers of aid are strategic and economic…” of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. “For all policy makers around the world, you face a short-term trade-off about tactical implementation of your broad strategy.” But the kind of trade-offs that foreign aid agencies frequently make to work with authoritarian regimes are ultimately counter-productive, says William Easterly, a professor of economics and the co-director of the Development Research Institute at New York University, NYC, USA. Authoritarian regimes are by definition focused primarily on keeping themselves in power, he points out, so how can one trust their data or actions, or expect them to make long-term sacrifices for the greater good? The politicisation of aid is not a new charge in Ethiopia. A 2011 investigation by BBC Newsnight and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that badly needed food and agricultural aid that had been given by foreign donors was being denied to hungry village communities not allied with the ruling party. In view of the long-running problems documented in Ethiopia, “the impunity of the donors astonishes me”, says Easterly, a former economist at the World Bank. Human rights are essential to development, so when a foreign donor finances a government that represses these rights, it does not help a country develop, it sets it back, he says. The Bank has recently begun a review of its “safeguards” policies, which include a plethora of issues such as natural resources, resettlement, and informed consent—although not human rights. World Bank officials said that incorporating a human rights programme is hard because the Bank is supposed to be non-political and it would be hard to define human rights in a way that would be acceptable to all of the Bank’s 188 member nations. The relation between human rights and aid is almost non-existent, says James Lebovic, a political scientist at George Washington University, DC, USA, who has studied the issue. In fact, some of the worst abusers receive the most aid, he says. Rather than rights, the primary drivers of aid are strategic and economic, he has found. There have long been calls for the Bank to perform due diligence on the social impact of its work. In 2000, the editors of the book Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor, noted that although assessments sometimes took place, “such exercises are rarely undertaken systematically, conducted by independent analysts, or calculated with the same painstaking precision that routinely goes into reckoning projected economic gains”. One of that book’s editors was Jim Yong Kim, who now serves as the World Bank’s President. Even with good policies in place, human rights or otherwise, the real challenge is in effectively implementing them. A 2010 report by an internal Bank monitoring group found that the existing safeguards policies were often not followed: “More than a third of World Bank projects had inadequate environmental and social supervision, manifested mainly in unrealistic safeguards ratings and poor or absent monitoring and evaluation.”

Samuel Loewenberg

For the HRW report see http:// http://www.hrw.org/re

For the Oakland Institute report see http://www.oaklandinstitute. org/development-aid-ethiopia ports/2013/07/22/abuse-free- development SL received support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

thanks to: http://www.thelancet.com Vol 382 September 14, 2013

US sanctions violate Iranians’ right to life: Analyst

The illegal US sanctions against Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program deprive the Iranian people of their basic “right to life,” a political analyst tells Press TV.

“These sanctions are cruel and these sanctions violate the Iranian people’s right to life. It’s the most basic right that we have guaranteed by numerous treaties, including the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” said Paul Wolf in a Saturday interview with Press TV.

“It should be obvious to everyone that this is really not fair in international politics to put pressure in this manner,” he pointed out.

Wolf pointed to the recent US move to partially ease sanctions affecting Iran’s medical sector as “probably a good sign” but noted that the measure is still a “very small step.”

The US Treasury Department conceded on Thursday that its bans have created major challenges for pharmaceutical companies to conduct transactions with Iran.

The department said it was now expanding the list of medical items that can be exported to Iran without a special license.

At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions entered into force in early summer 2012.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran may be seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Although the US-led sanctions imposed on Iran do not directly ban selling medicine and medical supplies to the Islamic Republic, the sanctions on Iran’s banking sector have effectively hindered the import of medicine to the country through obligating the importers of medicine to Iran to apply for special licenses.

The cumbersome process has dissuaded many of the importing companies. As a result, the lives of many Iranian patients suffering from special diseases such as thalassemia, hemophilia, hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, etc., have been put at stake.

Many prominent international lawyers contend that Iran is entitled to file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice against the US, France, the UK and their allies, on behalf of all the Iranian citizens being harmed by illegal and political economic sanctions.

ASH/HJL/HMV

thanks to:

No to the torture of Palestinian children!

No to the torture of Palestinian children!                                                                                                                                 

No complicity with their torturers!

Every day the Israeli Occupation Forces arrest Palestinian children in their homes, mostly in the middle of the night and take them away handcuffed and blindfolded to interrogation centres where they are subjected to physical and psychological tortures: bound hand and foot in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep, at times hit, threatened with sexual assault and reprisals against their families. They are generally asked to admit that they have thrown stones at tanks or bulldozers demolishing their houses, to denounce other children, to become ‘informers’ and to sign documents written in Hebrew, a language which they do not understand.

Every day the Israeli Occupation Forces arrest Palestinian children in their homes, mostly in the middle of the night and take them away handcuffed and blindfolded to interrogation centres where they are subjected to physical and psychological tortures: bound hand and foot in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep, at times hit, threatened with sexual assault and reprisals against their families. They are generally asked to admit that they have thrown stones at tanks or bulldozers demolishing their houses, to denounce other children, to become ‘informers’ and to sign documents written in Hebrew, a language which they do not understand.

These acts have been reported by many Palestinian, Israeli and international organisations defending human rights and children’s rights, such as UNICEF, Defence Children International, B’Tselem, Save the Children, ACAT and the British Foreign Office, in a report entitled ‘Children in Military Detention’.

They point out that such Palestinian children have no access to their parents or lawyers for weeks, they are sometimes taken to Israeli military courts and jailed at the age of 12, in Israeli prisons, totally illegally. (The Geneva Conventions forbid any occupier to transfer the whole occupied population or part of it to the territory of the occupying power).

That does not include the daylight robbery often practised by the Israeli occupier, when the families of the kidnapped children are made to pay ‘fines’ in order to get them back.

Nevertheless, the French government which must be fully aware of these acts, regularly welcomes to France the people responsible for these tortures, thus flouting the International Convention on Children’s Rights (1989)  and the International Convention on Torture (New York Convention, 1984), signed by France and compelling this country to trace and prosecute any person suspected of having committed acts of physical or psychological torture, or ordered them, or knowingly allowed them to be committed.

Now these tortures inflicted on adults and children are public knowledge in Israel, and the whole military and political chain of command does allow or recommend these practices.

Therefore, we call on the French government to respect international law and to stop welcoming to France anyone responsible for these tortures.

Furthermore, we are asking all the important NGOs defending Human Rights and Children’s Rights to take concrete action and lodge complaints with French courts on behalf of the victims of these tortures, or of their families, as soon as they are informed of such cases.

As Amnesty International writes: “If you are revolted by torture, arbitrary detention, poverty, the death penalty, injustice, forced expulsions, impunity… transform your indignation into action!

stoptortureenfantspalestiniens.wesign.it

Occupation’s jails

Halahle did not receive any medical treatment for his serious disease

NABLUS, (PIC)– Family of detainee Thaer Halahle appealed to all human rights organizations to intervene and save the life of their seriously ill son.

The family told Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies and human rights on Sunday that Halahle, from Al-Khalil, recently discovered that he was suffering from liver disease but was not given any treatment in Israeli captivity.

Fuad Al-Khuffash, the director of the Ahrar center, said that Halahle, 34, was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces in Ramallah only a few months after his release from administrative detention.

He said that his disease was the result of dental treatment while in jail where the dentist in Askalan jail used contaminated tools in his treatment.

The director warned that medical neglect of his case would gravely exacerbate his condition especially when this illness is very serious if left untreated.

Khuffash charge the Israeli occupation authorities with deliberately neglecting the treatment of Palestinian sick prisoners in its jails.

Halahle is held in Ofer jail and has threatened to go on hunger strike if he was not accorded proper treatment for his illness.

Report: “Detainee Abu Hamdiyya Died Of Advanced Stage Of Carcinoma”

Sunday [June 16] Head of the Palestinian Forensics Center, Dr. Saber Al-‘Aloul, stated that the final findings of the forensic report regarding the cause of death of detainee Maisara Abu Hamdiyya, revealed that he suffered from a fourth stage Carcinoma. Abu Hamdiyya died more than 2 months ago.

Abu Hamdiyya suffered a fourth stage Carcinoma center in his lung lymphatic, liver and spine, throat cancer extending to his vocal cords, and brain tumor, Al-‘Aloul said during a press conference at the Government Media Center in Ramallah.

Despite the seriousness of his condition, the Israeli Prison Administration did not grant Abu Hamdiyya the needed specialized and urgent medical treatment, until it was too late.

During a press conference in Ramallah, Al-’Aloul stated that Abu Hamdiyya did not receive any treatment, not even one chemotherapy session, an issue that led to spread of cancer to various vital organs.

He held Israeli directly responsible for the death of Abu Hamdiyya, and said that Israel deprives the Palestinian detainees from adequate medical treatment, and imprisons them under very harsh inhumane conditions.

During the press conference, Palestinian Minister of Detainees, Issa Qaraqe’, stated that Abu Hamdiyya is the latest victim of Israel’s ongoing violations against the detainees.

He said that 204 Palestinian detainees died in Israeli prisons and detention center since 1967, and that 52 of them died due to the lack, or absence, of medical attention.

Qaraqe’ added that the forensic experts who examined the body of Abu Hamdiyya demanded forming a joint local and international committee to visit the detainees in various Israeli prisons, and provide the sick with the needed medical attention.

Head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), Qaddoura Fares, stated that there is no doubt that Abu Hamdiyya died due to the lack of medical attention.

Fares called for translating the autopsy report of Abu Hamdiyya into different languages, and to submit it to various international organizations, including the United Nations.

He said that ailing detainees in Israeli prisons are facing gradually deteriorating medical conditions due to Israel’s illegal policies and practices.

Abu Hamdiyya’s sister stated that, in 2007, he suffered hemorrhaging blood from his stomach, and was moved to the Ramla Prison Clinic, but no tests or diagnostics were carried out.

He died on April 2 this year, at the Intensive Care Unit of the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er As-Sabe’ (Beersheba). He was only moved to the medical center after a sharp and very serious deterioration in his health condition.

Haj Saadi Alsakhal dies under torture in PA jails

NABLUS, (PIC)– Haj Saadi Alsakhal died on Saturday afternoon in PA Intelligence headquarters in Nablus few hours after his arrest from his workplace, the Families of Political Prisoners Committee in the West Bank said.

The committee stated that PA forces broke violently into Haj Alsakhal’s workplace this morning in Rafedia and arrested him and his son Musab.

The PA forces came to arrest Musab but his father refused to hand his son. They started then shooting up in the air before arresting both the son and his father where they were taken to PA intelligence headquarters in Junaid prison, the committee explained.

In the prison, PA security forces brutally attacked and harshly beat the elderly man which resulted in Haj Alsakhal’s death few hours after his arrest.

It strongly condemned the crime considering it a violation to the national and human values. The statement stressed the need to prosecute those responsible for such crimes and violations against the Palestinian people.

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Support Jack Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel

Express your support for Associate Professor Jake Lynch’s recent refusal to accept a proposed fellowship between Hebrew University and the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. To have accepted the proposed fellowship of Hebrew University academic Dan Avnon would have violated the CPACSs’ official commitment to the global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. This campaign includes a boycott of institutional links with Israeli universities.

The University of Sydney’s institutional partnerships should not come at the expense of Palestinian human rights. Therefore we also demand an end to the strong relationship between the University of Sydney and the Technion, an Israeli university uniquely and directly implicated in war crimes.

Sign the petition here.

thanks to: Alternative Information Center (AIC)

LETTER FROM CANADA: “Captivity led captive” — for some – by Robert Assaly

May 24th, 2013

Acutely conscious of Palestinian Christians’ cry to us and to churches around the world for liberation for all Palestinians, Canadian churches engaged the Kairos Palestine (KP) document. However, little did we imagine this would have implications for liberation of the Church at home! And yet in a cruel irony typical of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there is still something wrong with this picture when North Americans, not Israelis and Palestinians, are the beneficiaries of this cry for liberation.

This reflection comes as we mark the Ascension, when the Church reads, “He ascended on high and led captivity captive” (Ps. 68.18) – a key liberation text. Palestinian theologian Canon Naim Ateek (of Sabeel, in Jerusalem) has articulated a stunning metaphor for the core problem underpinning the challenge of liberation in that conflict. Israel’s birth in 1948 has as its mirror event the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) – the dispossession of Palestinians to make way for the birth of a Jewish state. He thus named Israel as having been born in original sin.  And he theologically explained how reconciliation would be almost inevitable when Israel confronted and overcame the conditions of its birth.

Ateek would know; indeed he remembers. His childhood expulsion from his birthplace, Beisan, with his family in 1948, was vividly recollected, along with the only return visit with his father when they were first permitted to travel a full decade later. They were denied entry to their house by the Jewish family that had claimed it, the Arabic village name had been changed, the churches transformed to various uses to suit the new Jewish residents. Their history and narrative – the foundational instrument of Palestinian liberation — had been denied and even erased.

In his landmark book, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (1989), Ateek names the implications of silencing a narrative. He describes how the refugees tried to “tell their story” but often it fell on deaf ears in the west, thereby giving rise to violence as an alternative recourse (p.14). If there is any redemption for Israel’s birth in ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, and any reconciliation, it will begin by taking captive that very silencing; liberating the truth.

Of this, Canadians have little doubt. A federally appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission, encouraged by the Church, continues working prominently across the country to confront our own history with the aboriginals of this land. Most notably, the Commission’s work has been to allow victims of Residential School abuse to tell their stories toward gathering the narrative, marking the beginnings of that healing process.

Yet in terms of making space for the Palestinian Christian narrative, the Canadian churches frequently acceded to being held captive, and by rather negative forces. I do not think it is hyperbole to observe that the Kairos Palestine document will be remembered as a turning point in this regard – indeed a Kairos moment for the life of the Canadian Church – liberating us from the easy path of acquiescing to being silenced. Because of the uniquely powerful groups arrayed against justice and peace in Palestine as confirmed by Archbishop Tutu, and the consequences for breaking the silence, I have considered truth-telling on Palestine to be a litmus test for courage, even integrity.

Specifically, what we ourselves were liberated from is named by a keen observer of the churches’ relationship to Judaism as “The Ecumenical Deal.” Dr. Marc Ellis, who 25 years ago, in tandem with Ateek’s work, launched Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation, has not explicitly called “The Deal” Faustian. Nonetheless, it is the tacit arrangement whereby the church allows legitimate criticism of the state of Israel to be labeled anti-Semitic, such “that to support Jews they have to be silent about what is happening to Palestinians.” Yes, silent.

I would argue that the KP document constitutes, at a minimum, the straw that broke the back of The Ecumenical Deal in Canada.

The prize for buying into the Deal is maintaining relations with its peddlers — establishment Jewish organizations which are nothing less than that Israel Lobby, ranked in the top handful of the Fortune 500 “Power 25” rankings. Their primary vehicles of influence in the Church are often national Christian-Jewish Dialogues.

First then, let us disclaim the Lobby’s disclaimers, as the blunt end of the Ecumenical Deal relies on the veil maintained by these denials. Beyond the disingenuous retort that there is no Israel Lobby, for decades the official interlocutor in the Dialogue, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), was stealthily integral to it. I was invited to be the ecumenical keynote speaker at the national Presbyterian General Assembly in 2010, to address the KP Document. The requisite CJC opposition “partner” was there too, shamelessly introduced as their chief lobbyist in Ottawa. The CJC’s attack on the KP document cobbled together for the occasion exposed the shallowness of their claims as it was accompanied by a CRO (church-related organization) document supporting KP in a mailing to all presbyteries across the country.

The other essential disclaimer is that the interfaith Dialogue claims to be theological, suggesting the exclusion of a foreign policy agenda. My experience has been otherwise. In any event, the veil was dropped recently; internecine struggles among the establishment Jewish organizations resulted in the bitter “smothering” of the CJC, replaced by The Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs at the Dialogue table. Its very name belies any pretense of disinterest in a solidly Israel-first agenda, while leaving many wondering how the Dialogue might even broach theology.

The preferred enforcement method for the Deal had been clandestine tactics directed at heads of Churches. In 2000, the Canadian Council of Churches sent me along with a colleague on a fact-finding visit to Palestine and Israel, accompanied by a statement of solidarity signed by Canadian church leaders to their Jerusalem counterparts. We were greeted upon arrival with a fax indicating most signatories had recanted. Disappointed Jerusalem Church leaders were mystified at how they could be abandoned by their brothers and sisters in Christ. Upon our return, we traced the reversal to the Christian overseer of the Dialogue having quietly red-flagged the letter to the CJC, which in turn directly pressured each Church leader with the instrument of the Deal. The subsequent outrage of the Arab-Canadian community toward the churches was reported in the secular press.

This followed upon the establishment of “the two-track” process, which was supposed to allow the partnership side of the Church to freely engage the Middle Eastern churches without Dialogue interference. This came about after bringing to light the self-censoring (read: silencing) of these partnership relations under Dialogue surveillance.

The blowback from clandestine operations pushed the Lobby into tactics of open confrontations. When the Bishop of Ottawa earned the front-page headline in the Ottawa newspaper following his Christmas sermon at the Cathedral describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the Israeli Ambassador attempted to embarrass him. This tactic backfired. The Bishop was applauded for standing on principle and, further, for hosting a North American conference on Jerusalem co-sponsored by Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA). The conference was brought to a pregnant hush after the same above-mentioned lobbyist representing the CJC invoked the Holocaust and insinuations of anti-Semitism. Dr. Ellis, on a panel, jumped to his feet, grinned, and claimed, “You’re trying to silence us. We won’t be silent.”

The Ecumenical Deal incidents aiming to silence the Canadian churches, often successfully, could fill volumes.  Then came the KP document.

Speaking with one voice for Palestinian Christians, and with a rare endorsement by all the Jerusalem Heads of Churches, the KP “Word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering” could not be ignored. KP included theological reflection, articulation of why the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an “evil,” the elaboration of the place of faith toward ending that suffering and effecting reconciliation, and the requirement of action in the form of non-violent economic measures including Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).

Our immediate response was to convene Church Middle East staffers for the first time jointly with CROs, and focused on KP, however in a new broader and unshackled configuration dubbed The Forum. Thus the long harassed 25 year-old Middle East Working Group of only some church staff yielded to a space where partnership issues could be freely discussed and engaged without an institutional conduit to the Dialogue. Thus I believe KP will be remembered here as a turning-point, giving voice to the Palestinian narrative unchallenged by “balance” with the voices of oppression. KP has liberated us from the captivity to the Ecumenical Deal, allowing honest and critical partnership with Palestinian Christians, without looking over our shoulder. And the fruits are already proving rich, promising, and faithful.

A notable achievement is the success of a return visit to Canada of KP staffer Nora Carmi, also the West Banker chosen on behalf of Palestinian Christians to address Pope Benedict personally during his visit to Bethlehem. Despite later being an overseas guest speaker at the United Church of Canada’s General Assembly in 2009, she was mostly sidelined by the presence of an inter-faith partner, a prominent rabbi and former CJC president. The three resolutions on BDS went down to defeat.

Last year on her Forum-initiated post-KP return, with no pro forma Lobby counter-narrative, Nora Carmi eloquently voiced the call to BDS to church leaders, the general public and, in a speech in the Parliament Building, to Senators, Members, Foreign Affairs staff and diplomats.

Only a few weeks later, the United Church of Canada’s boycott resolution passed at General Assembly with overwhelming support. This came on the heels of Lobby success in the USA with the Presbyterian and United Methodist national conventions, where divestment failed by a razor-thin margin, and despite tens of thousands of Lobby dollars invested trying to defeat the Canadian resolution. Along with Lobby enlisting of the national media and even a coalition of Senators, a former CJC representative’s brandishing the Ecumenical Deal at the Assembly was apparently no match for the liberated narrative of Palestinians.

As a direct result of the debate around that boycott resolution, for the first time, a coalition of national Arab-Canadian organizations met with the Forum, and then with Heads of Churches or their appointees. This may itself coalesce into a table with the churches where these groups can have their voices heard, deepening church relations with the region. Moreover, the churches can for the first time hear Canadian voices on all sides – progressive Jewish voices, Dialogue interlocutors, and Arab- and Muslim-Canadians – without allowing suppression of narratives.

Liberated from our own captivity to the Ecumenical Deal and its accompanying fears of being tarred with an anti-Semitism libel, the KP call to us has in significant measure moved the Canadian churches further to giving unfettered voice to the Palestinian narrative, free of an artificial balance with an offsetting voice of oppression. Perhaps it is a sign of authentic partnership that underscored our own deficiencies, however ironic, when in fact we are the beneficiaries of Palestinian Christians’ cry for liberation.

In the 1990s, the Rev. Robert Assaly was Director of the Middle East Council of Churches office in Jerusalem and the Episcopal Vicar of Gaza. He was for a decade the Canadian Council of Churches representative to the UN coordinating committee of North American NGOs on the Question of Palestine in New York. Later he was rector of a rural parish priest in the Diocese of Ottawa where he was born, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University. He continues as Chair of the Canadian Friends of Sabeel.

Palestinian Christian Nora Carmi and Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Ottawa address United Church commissioners at the 2009 trinnenial national Assembly during debate on Middle East proposals. Photos by Mike Milne stitched together and published by the United Church Observer, giving the false image of balance at the assembly, even if it is a balance of oppressed and oppressor.

With Israel prohibiting Palestinian clergy from entering Gaza, Fr. Rick Marples of the Diocese of Ottawa defiantly celebrates the Eucharist under the shattered roof of St. Philip’s Gaza. The altar is presumed to have been the target of the Israeli laser-guided missile.

thanks to: Rev. Robert Assaly

RESPONSE TO KAIROS PALESTINE: “The Letter of 15” and the use of U.S. military aid by Israel in Palestine – Katherine Cunningham

May 23rd, 2013

As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. ~ from Letter of 15 Church Leaders to U.S. Congress

On October 5, 2012, fifteen Christian leaders in the United States issued a letter to members of Congress that rocked American Christian-Jewish relationships.  The letter addressed the American legislators who approve all economic and military aid to Israel and are charged with the responsibility of oversight for how that 3.1 billion dollar annual aid package is implemented.

No one saw this coming.  The statement stunned the Jewish community used to the unquestioned support of the State of Israel as a preferential ally of the United States.  The 2012 denominational national meetings, with their heated debates on divestment from American corporations benefiting from supporting the Palestinian occupation, concluded with votes among the Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians “to invest” in Palestine rather than divest church funds from U.S. corporations profiting from Israel’s military occupation. Those votes were influenced by threats from Jewish organizations that pro-divestment actions would cause a rupture in the decades of Christian-Jewish interfaith partnerships.

Within months of the national meetings, the heads of mainline churches and other Christian organizations turned their attention the United States Congress, asking its members to investigate human rights abuses and violations of federal laws that Congress itself had placed on all foreign military aid.  The intense reaction from Jewish organizations reveals a significant divide in nationalistic loyalties, focused on Christian U.S. citizens calling Congress to an honest examination of military aid under United States law against the actions of the country that so many Americans regard as the rightful Jewish homeland.

What the letter said about Palestinian and Israeli suffering

Each of the Christian churches and organizations that signed on (see list below) to the letter has an established ethical commitment to peacemaking in the region.  Many of these churches have actively supported a two-state solution and encouraged Israelis and Palestinians to continue to negotiate for a just peace. The ecumenical letter sought to lift up the long history of suffering in the region, noting that the longing for security and peace for both sides is genuine and that each party bears responsibility.  It affirms the deaths and horror resulting from past suicide bombings and the broad fearfulness resulting from Gaza rocket attacks upon the broader Israeli society. The Letter underscores the churches’ witness to Palestinian home demolitions, the killing of civilians by the Israeli military and other human rights violations. Its text reflects the churches’ usual “balanced” approach to suffering and security. It is careful not to characterize or criticize any faith group’s stance on the conflicts.

Kairos Palestine and the United States Congress

The Kairos Palestine confessional document insists on defining Christ’s commandment to love as inclusive of the friend and the enemy.  It also claims resistance as both a right and duty of the Christian, using love as its logic. [KP: 4.2.3] Such love is corrective, refusing to resist evil with evil, and seeking respect of all life. It affirms that one may defend his or her life, freedom and land. [KP: 4.2.5] However, with regard to the international community, Kairos Palestine challenges the international community to resist “selective application of international law” which “threatens to leave us vulnerable to a law of the jungle. It legitimizes the claims by certain armed groups and states that the international community only understands the logic of force.” [KP: 7]

The reality on the ground, asserts Kairos Palestine, is one of daily inhuman conditions, enforced by the Israeli military, including military checkpoints, the use of guns, tear gas and bombs against civilians in situations which do not rise to the level of military threat. Other policies of occupation defy and break international UN laws and, in all likelihood, United States laws, on the use of military aid provided to an allied government.  This is the logic of force, and this is why it is so important that Christian leaders spoke truth to power, in this case the United States Congress.

The ecumenical document, often referred to as “The Letter of 15, ” urges Congress to conduct “ an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”  These two laws form the basis for the Letter of 15 issuing a call to Congress to engage in its responsibility to investigate and report on its findings.

The Arms Export Control Act (AECA, 1976) is a comprehensive policy regulating how arms are traded, sold or supplied for a country’s lawful self-defense and imposes restrictions on the development and proliferation of certain kinds of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The Foreign Assistance Act dates from 1961 and includes the separation of military and non-military aid, also creating the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  This law states that no assistance will be provided to a government which

“engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.” [Legislation on Foreign Relations,The Government Printing Office]

The 2011 U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covered Israel and the Occupied Territories, describing numerous human rights violations committed by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians — many of which involve the misuse of US-supplied weapons.

When viewed through the lens of Kairos Palestine, the Letter of 15 is a collaboration of Christian organizations in the U.S. urging Congress to take responsibility for enforcing its own laws, decades old, and uphold these legal restrictions that Congress bound itself to as the legislative branch of our government, and at the same time to address how the military actions and policies of the State of Israel might be in violation of its agreements with the U.S. to abide by the laws conditional to the preferential aid it receives. Both sides are accountable for upholding United States and international laws and human rights. Congress has an accountability relationship to U.S. taxpayers to abide by our standards in providing aid. Israel is not exempt.  [KP: 1.2, 1.4]

Responses to the Ecumenical Letter

The Letter of 15 elicited a fierce exchange of accusations, as well as much commentary in both secular and religious media.  One of the most telling is the following set of interviews from the HuffPost Live: Faith Leaders on Aid to Israel, which interviewed Jewish and Christian leaders on the Letter and its impact.  Watch the video interviews on HuffPost Live Source.

Jewish organizations had swift angry reactions to the Letter.  The Rabbinical Assembly asked Congress to reject the call for oversight. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs characterized the letter signed by 15 church leaders as “a step too far,” according to JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.  “The participation of these leaders in yet another one-sided anti-Israel campaign cannot be viewed apart from the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.” Never mind that anti-Zionism was used as synonymous with anti-semitism, which it is not.

The Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council supported the call for Congressional oversight, noting that Mideast analyst MJ Rosenberg has rightly pointed out that such programs as Social Security and food stamps were under congressional scrutiny for compliance, asking why not the same for Israel?  “…the U.S. alone is in a place to create the kind of leverage that might challenge Israel to turn away from policies that impede the cause of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians and true security for all who live in the region.”

At the same time, the churches which had signed the letter to Congress quickly moved to interpret its contents in light of established denominational policies. The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of the signatories, noted that in 2010 that body had explicitly noted the problems with compliance on the part of the State of Israel with regard to military aid and directed him to communicate these issues to Congress.

In an essay published by Mondoweiss, author and activist Dr. Mark Braverman asserted that beyond the issues of interfaith bullying, the churches’ letter addresses the need to look at the unconditional financial and diplomatic support by the U.S. government for Israel under the guise of security. “We know that responsible advocacy for human rights for Palestinians and a sane, compassionate U.S. policy have nothing to do with anti-Jewish feeling,” Braverman writes, “But make no mistake—we are seeing only the beginning of the battle that will be waged to silence this church movement.”

A final word

Military aid to the State of Israel from the United States is the single most important international aid factor–beyond any government’s humanitarian aid–in addressing how the conflict between Palestine and Israel will be resolved with justice. Our government arms the Israelis, a major contribution to the power imbalance between both parties, and insures the occupier’s military and colonial initiatives and logistics will succeed.

B’Tselem’s May 2013 report on human rights violations during operation “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012 states the Israeli military killed 167 Palestinians, including at least 87 who did not take part in the hostilities, 31 of whom were minors. Should our congress not be concerned with loss of innocent civilian life? Should it not also seek firm answers about whether or not US military aid was used in Pillar of Defense?

This is precisely why the Letter of 15 is a cry for justice to the Congress and to the churches. It requests that our government honor its legal responsibilities to those supplied military aid and to the taxpayers themselves who fund it. The Letter confronts the church to keep bringing that demand forward to the legislators and candidates for office:  Have we been faithful to the laws of our land?  Will we subject aid to the State of Israel to the same scrutiny we do other countries, and even to domestic aid programs of the Federal government? Will justice and human rights be served on our own end, even as the government calls other countries to do the same in their international relations?

Kairos Palestine issues a challenge to the churches of the world: “Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?” [KP: 6] How do we Christians in North America respond?

Rev. Katherine Cunningham is the moderator of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In joyful obedience to the call of Christ, and in solidarity with churches and our other partners in the Middle East, this network covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel its energy toward the goal of a just peace in Israel /Palestine by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, and coordinating advocacy.  Please visit the network’s website at www,theIPMN.org.

Signatories of the Letter of 15:

Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

United Methodist Council of Bishops President Rosemarie Wenner

Peg Birk, transitional General Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Shan Cretin, General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee

J. Ron Byler, Executive Director of the Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Alexander Patico, North American Secretary for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on Legislation

A. Roy Medley, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches

Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President of United Church of Christ

Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Julia Brown Karimu, President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Division of Overseas Ministries

James A. Moos, Executive Minister for the United Church of Christ’s Wider Church Ministries

Eli S. McCarthy, Justice and Peace Director for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Kathy McKneely, Acting Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

NOTE: For a comprehensive listing of responses to the Letter to Congress, please visit the United Methodists Holy Land Task Force web site here. Also, The Church Letter Reporter, here.

 

Expanding Jewish-only settlements annex fertile Palestinian land to Israel. Photo: Susanne Hoder

 

 

Street in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem. Photo: Susanne Hoder

 

thanks to: Katherine Cunningham

An Awakening: American Churches Embrace Targeted Economic Actions in Response to Kairos Palestine – Susanne Hoder

May 22nd, 2013 I’ll never forget my first encounter with an elderly Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem.  We discussed the desperate reality on the ground for families whose homes were being destroyed, their farmland and wells confiscated.  With a look of deep hurt he asked me, “Why are American churches not doing anything to stop this?”  I could only tell him that churches back home didn’t know.  If they did, I assured him, it would be different.  I was certain followers of Christ would unite against Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Christians and Muslims, which is so apparent to those who witness it.

A decade later, despite first-hand accounts from people of every faith, many American churches are still in the dark about Israel’s treatment of non-Jews.  However, others are responding decisively to a historic call which has been signed by thousands of Palestinian Christians since its publication in 2009.   Known as Kairos Palestine [1], this urgent missive to the churches of the world cries out for an end to complacency.  It asks for concrete actions to help end the occupation and discrimination that confront Palestinians daily.  The Kairos document followed the Amman Call of 2007 and the Berne Perspective in 2008, which said “No more words without deeds.” Kairos Palestine was unique in that it called for specific steps – including boycott, divestment and sanctions – which have successfully ended oppression in other countries.

The wheels of church policy turn slowly, and for those of us who have seen the destroyed homes, uprooted trees, and confiscated wells, the pace of change is maddeningly slow.  Yet in 2013, there has been tangible action from several major denominations in the US, and there are promising signs from others.

Last year the United Methodist General Conference approved a measure calling on all nations to forbid the import of settlement goods.[2] Groundbreaking research has been done by United Methodist volunteers to identify settlement companies exporting products to the United States and US companies importing them.[3] The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society will be approaching US government agencies with these lists, urging that the products be banned.

Within the United Methodist Church, a global grassroots movement called United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR)[4] has urged the UMC to align its words with its actions.  For years, the denomination has called for an end to the occupation.  Yet church investment portfolios show significant holdings in companies that enable the occupation to continue.  Encouraged by UMKR, a number of regional United Methodist conferences called for divestment from these companies, and several UM foundations have already divested.[5] Others will consider resolutions to divest this summer.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted at its 2012 General Assembly to call for boycott of settlement products.[6] Its highly respected Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) has formed a boycott committee and has endorsed an interfaith campaign against SodaStream.[7] The boycott committee meets frequently through conference calls and has developed a Boycott 101 section on its web site.[8] This guide identifies some of the settlement products being imported to the United States, offering suggestions and steps for local churches to boycott them.   IPMN also provides resources for contacting stores that carry the products, and informing the communities about them.  From Rochester to San Francisco, Presbyterians are leafleting retailers and writing to managers, asking that these products be de-shelved.

IPMN is encouraging an expansion of the boycott to include US companies sustaining the occupation in a variety of ways.  An example is Hewlett Packard, whose biometric scanners are used as a discriminatory tool at checkpoints in the West Bank to control the movement of Palestinians in their own lands.

A measure calling for divestment of church funds from three American companies profiting from the occupation came within two votes of passing at the last Presbyterian General Assembly.  Instead of divesting, the General Assembly voted to invest in Palestine and has been sending leaders on trips to the region to find suitable projects for investment. For reasons discussed later in this article, that has been difficult. Divestment will be reconsidered at the next policy session in 2014.

Big strides for justice were made in 2013 when both the American Friends Service Committee and the Mennonite Central Committee announced investment screens of 29 companies involved with the occupation.[9] These companies are being removed from portfolios and will be ineligible for future investment until they end their role in Israel’s occupation.

The United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN)[10] was founded in January of 2012.  It has a Steering Committee of 20 people. With their support, the UCC national ministry staff has taken two bold stands in the last year. The denomination’s General Minister and President, and the Executive Minister for Wider Church Ministries joined other Christian leaders in asking Congress to investigate the use of military aid given to Israel by the US.[11] UCC PIN is encouraging local church groups to take this request personally to their Congressional representatives. The UCC Collegium of Officers (the top national officers in the UCC) signed a special Advent letter encouraging church members to boycott certain products that support Israel’s occupation.[12]

UCC PIN has joined the US Campaign to End the Occupation and has endorsed the Kairos Palestine Document, the Call to Action of Kairos USA, the Soda Stream boycott and the Hewlett Packard boycott. One of its Steering Committee members has become a liaison to United Church Funds and will be meeting with the Ecumenical Action Group (EAG), which focuses on shareholder resolutions and other forms of corporate engagement to end complicity in Israel’s occupation.

Catholics too are taking action. Pax Christi joined other religious groups in the US in publishing an abridged version of the Kairos Palestine Document.  In January 2013, Pax Christi International called for accurate labeling of goods produced in the settlements and “an active ban of settlement products.”[13]

As early as 2007, the National Coalition of American Nuns stated, “We encourage a boycott of Israeli goods in order to hasten a more just civil order in the Holy Land….we call for divestment from Caterpillar, municipal boycotts of CAT machinery, and a consumer boycott of other CAT products.”[14]

A key disappointment has been the stance of the Episcopal Church in the US, which “does not support boycott, divestment, and economic sanctions against the state of Israel.”[15] In 2013, the Episcopal Executive Council voted to invest $500,000 in the Bank of Palestine, despite overwhelming evidence that such “positive investment” is meaningless when companies cannot get goods to market, workers cannot reach their jobs and vital resources such as water are withheld from Palestinians.[16] Many capital projects built with donor funds have been destroyed by Israel, including roads, water cisterns, solar panels and power plants.  The Bank of Palestine has its work cut out to find secure projects for these church funds. Fortunately, key groups within the church, including the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Palestine Israel Network, have called for BDS, and support for these groups among Episcopalians is growing.

Though the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) has also refrained from endorsing boycott or divestment, it has promoted sanctions that would end US military aid and housing loan guarantees to Israel.  Its Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine states “ELCA has 1) urged that no U.S. funds be used for military assistance; 2) called for a freeze on all Israeli settlement activity; 3) opposed further housing loan guarantees to Israel unless and until the construction and expansion of settlements in the occupied territories is stopped.” [17] ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson joined with 14 other Christian leaders in signing a 2012 letter[18] requesting hearings about the use of military aid to Israel to ensure compliance with US and international human rights law.  The letter questioned the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel.  (More on this “Letter of 15” will be in tomorrow’s article here on Ecclesio.)

Kairos USA, which Mark Braverman described for Ecclesio this week, has made a tremendous contribution to educating American Christians about the call of Kairos Palestine.  Kairos USA’s Call to Action is inspiring.[19] It encourages Christians to translate concern into action and “to become educated about the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” The endorsements it has gathered from a theologically diverse mix of church leaders are impressive.

We must not stop with declarations. When importers of settlement products are named in their communities, when settlement goods are de-shelved, banned and taxed, and when investors adopt selective screens, the edifice of occupation will crumble.  The tools for accomplishing this are available.  We need only the determination to replace words with action.

US connections to the occupation have been identified. American consumers and investors can speak with their economic choices. In the prophetic tradition of justice to which Christ called us, American churches must lead the way.  As Kairos Palestine tells us, “the time is now.”


[1] The Kairos Palestine Document, 2009.  http://www.kairospalestine.ps/

[2] Opposition to Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Land, Resolution 6073, adopted May 2, 2012. https://www.umhltf.org/United_Methodist_Church.html#2012_Resolution_Opposition_to_Israeli_Settlements

[3] Seizing the Mandate, published by United Methodist Kairos Response in February, 2013.  www.kairosresponse.org/boycott

[4]UM Kairos Response web site. www.kairosresponse.org

[5] The West Ohio, New York, and Northern Illinois conferences (regional governing bodies) of the UMC.

[6] “220th GA Passes Boycott.” July 6, 2012.   http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/component/content/article/18/227-220th-ga-passes-boycott

[7] Interfaith SodaStream Boycott web site. http://sodastreamboycott.org/

[8]Israel Palestine Network of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., “Boycott 101.” http://israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/advocacy/boycott-101

[9] “Companies Violating AFSC’s Investment Screen.” http://www.afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/Israel-Palestine%20Investment%20Screen%20-%20Companies%20List.pdf. “Mennonite US Board Acts for Peace Through Its Investments”, by Cheryl Zehr Walker,
March 26, 2013.  http://www.mcc.org/stories/news/mcc-us-board-acts-peace-through-its-investments

[10]UCC Global Ministries web site. http://globalministries.org/mee/partners/ucc-palestineisrael-network.html

[11] “UPDATED: UCC and Disciples join Christian leaders in letter to Congress outlining human-rights violations in the Middle East”

by Anthony Moujaes, UCNews, March 20, 2013.  http://globalministries.org/news/mee/ucc-joins-christian-leaders.html

[12] “Let us respond to Christ’s message of hope with justice and peace: An Advent Pastoral Letter from the National Officers of the United Church of Christ” November 21, 2012. http://www.ucc.org/news/this-advent-let-us-respond.html

[13] “Pax Christi International Calls for an End of Settlement Policy by Israel.” http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/01/30/pax-christi-international-pax-christi-international-calls-for-an-end-of-settlement-policy-by-israel/

[14] Nat’l Coalition of American Nuns, “Commitment to Peace.” http://www.ncan.us/2007/10/commitment-to-p.html

[15] “Episcopal Church Policy on Israel/Palestine.” http://epfnational.org/PIN/episcopal-church-policy-on-israelpalestine/

[16] UM Kairos Response, “Why Investing in Palestine Cannot Work Without Ending the Occupation.” https://www.kairosresponse.org/Investing_Is_Not_Enough.html

[17] Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Our Faith in Action, Justice, Israel and Palestine. http://www.elca.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Justice/Advocacy/Issues/Israel-Palestine.aspx.

[18] Religious leaders ask Congress to condition Israel military aid on human rights compliance http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/10/5/religious-leaders-ask-congress-condition-israel-mi/

[19] Kairos USA web site. http://www.kairosusa.org/?q=node/18

Susanne Hoder founded the Interfaith Peace Initiative, helped establish the United Methodist Divestment Task Force in New England, and co-founded United Methodist Kairos Response.  Since first visiting the Holy Land in 2004, she has worked to end Israel’s occupation and persecution of Palestinians.  She led a United Methodist study group to the West Bank in 2010 to document companies involved with the occupation, and has published research on companies that import products from illegal settlements to the United States.

The Israeli wall inside Bethlehem annexing a Christian family’s land to Israel (photo: Susanne Hoder, UMKR)

thanks to: Susanne Hoder

Kairos Time: A U.S. Call to Action – Mark Braverman

May 21st, 2013 “This is the Kairos, the moment of grace and opportunity, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action” So reads the South Africa Kairos document titled Challenge to the Church.  In their courageous statement of 1985, a group of South African pastors, theologians and activists, black and white, inaugurated the modern kairos era. “It is the kairos or moment of truth not only for apartheid,” continues the document, “but for the Church.”
The South African document set the standard for the historic Palestine Kairos document of 2009, entitled A moment of truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.  Also known as “Kairos Palestine,” the document, authored by Palestinian clergy, theologians and societal leaders from across the ecumenical spectrum, sets out the situation of a brutal and worsening occupation and articulates a theology that requires nonviolent resistance to the evil of occupation — resistance “with love as its logic.” Naming the Israeli occupation a sin, it calls out to the international community, reserving its final call for the church itself: “What is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arab world doing? What is the Church doing?”
Like its South African predecessor, the Palestinian call has been a game-changer. It has created a moment of truth for the church, when, in the words of Robert McAfee Brown, “the issues become so clear, and the stakes so high, that the privilege of amiable disagreement must be superseded by clear cut decisions, and the choice must move from both/and to either/or.” Kairos Palestine has been commended for study by congregations and denominations worldwide and has spawned Kairos movements and documents in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.A.  Call to Action: U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine document,  published in June 2012, is the most recent addition to this global response. Because of the central role of the U.S. government in its support for Israel and the size and power of the U.S. church, the appearance of the Kairos USA document is a significant development. Like the South African document that challenged the “church theology” that had supported the unjust actions of its own government, “Call to Action” directly asks the questions: how have U.S. Christians participated in the injustice that is causing so much suffering for Palestinians and is poisoning Israeli society, and what can the church in the U.S. do about creating real change?  The document courageously takes on key issues, including the influence of Christian Zionism, the theological meaning of the land, Christian feelings of responsibility for Jewish suffering, and the impact of Jewish institutional opposition to any perceived threat to U.S. support of Israel.
A Church Confession
Declaring the mission of the newly-formed Kairos “to mobilize the churches in the United States to respond faithfully and boldly to the situation in Israel and Palestine,” the preamble to “Call to Action” describes the background and context for its creation:
In June 2011, a group of U.S. clergy, theologians and laypersons, cognizant of our responsibility as Americans in the tragedy unfolding in Israel and Palestine, and mindful of the urgency of the situation, met to inaugurate a new movement for American Christians. We have been inspired by the prophetic church movements of southern Africa, Central and South America, Asia and Europe that have responded to the call of their Christian sisters and brothers in occupied Palestine. This is our statement of witness and confession—and our response as U.S. Christians to the Palestinian call.
“The tragic realities of Israel and Palestine today,” the document continues, “would deeply trouble Jesus and the prophets. The land in which Jesus lived and was crucified by the Roman imperial rulers is again a place of violence, inequality and suffering. Palestinians and Israelis are trapped in a spiral of violence that is destroying their humanity, squandering their resources and killing their children.”  The authors of “Call to Action” confess the tragic legacy of Christian persecution of Jews.  Having made this confession and acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to “security…free from the scourge of anti-Semitism,” the document shifts its focus to the urgent realities of the present day, stating boldly that “the State of Israel’s present course will not bring it the security it seeks nor grant the Jewish people freedom from fear.” Even though violence visited against Israel has evoked profound feelings of fear and insecurity on the part of Israelis, the document continues, “the cause of the current calamity is not the result of any historic or natural enmity between the two peoples, or the presence of deep-seated hatred directed against the Jewish people. Rather, it is the overwhelming imbalance of power, Israel’s practices of state violence, the ongoing abridgement of the human rights of the Palestinian people and the failure of the international community to hold Israel to principles of international law.”
The authors of “Call to Action” express a keen sense of responsibility as U.S. citizens for our government’s massive and unconditional support for the historic and ongoing injustice toward the Palestinians. But as Christians they are also aware of how closely intertwined our national policies are with a theology, endorsed by so many American Christians, that has been used to justify these policies.
As individuals and as church institutions, we have supported a system of control, inequality and oppression through misreading of our Holy Scriptures, flawed theology and distortions of history. We have allowed to go unchallenged theological and political ideas that have made us complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Instead of speaking and acting boldly, we have chosen to offer careful statements designed to avoid controversy and leave cherished relationships undisturbed.  We have forgotten the difference between a theology that supports the policies and institutional structures of oppression and a theology that, in response to history and human affairs, stands boldly with the widow, the orphan, the poor and the dispossessed.
Noting that the special relationship that has existed between the United States and Israel from the earliest days of the Jewish state “has crossed party lines and transcended political eras,” Kairos USA challenges us to reflect deeply on what this says about our own legacy as a conqueror and an occupier:
Our government’s policy toward Israel has at times reflected our own religiously-tinged identity as a privileged society blessed by God. The notion, for example, that the Jewish people have a special claim on Jerusalem and a superior right to the territory of historic Palestine over the other inhabitants of the land bears a resemblance to our historic American notion of “Manifest Destiny”—our nation as the “shining city on a hill.” As Americans and as Christians, we must carefully examine how our own deeply-rooted sense of privilege may affect our commitment to justice and equality in this and other human rights causes across the globe.
The U.S. document is a response to the Palestinian call but it bears most resemblance to its South African predecessor. In both cases, the object of the call to action is not the tyrannous system itself, but “moderating” forces that seek to disable the resistance and to preserve the unjust system, often through the appropriation of language and outright co-opting of religious and political leaders. Certainly this was true in the 1980s, with the Pretoria government’s attempted “reforms” in the form of Bantustan vassal states ruled by black political leaders co-opted by the Apartheid regime. The current U.S. commitment to a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict bears disturbing resemblance to this earlier example, with the proposed Palestinian “state” consisting of fragmented enclaves located within territory controlled militarily and economically by Israel.  Like the South African document, Kairos USA calls on American Christians, church bodies, and our own government to remember that above all, our actions and our policies must follow the prophetic instruction to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Call to Action
Kairos USA lays out specific actions for individuals, churches, and organizations:
Visit the land: “Come and see!” say the authors of Kairos Palestine, to “know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike.” Congregations and denominationally-organized visits must take care to work with Palestinians and Israelis who will introduce them to the situation on the ground and to those working for peace. When pilgrims are allowed to see the real facts of the situation, they not only “walk where Jesus walked,” they see what Jesus saw.  Witnessing the suffering and seeing the injustice, as Jesus did living under Roman occupation and the prophets in their day, Americans are called to speak out and to act.
Learn: Move beyond stereotypes, longstanding prejudices and biased reporting. There is a wealth of study materials and curricula in the form of reading materials, curricula for churches, schools and local organizations in the form of documents, videos, and speakers bureaus. A comprehensive Study Guide for the Kairos USA “Call to Action” is available at kairosusa.org.
Enrich worship and congregational life: Be proactive. Pray and preach justice and peace for Palestine and Israel. Pursue opportunities to learn and study about the situation, explore cultural and economic exchange and challenge our congregations to participate in the blessed calling of peacemaking.
Engage in theological reflection: Examine flawed biblical interpretations and theologies that have allowed injustice to continue unchallenged. Pursue open and active theological inquiry and encourage study and reflection, in order to guide our actions in striving to follow Jesus’ injunction to “interpret the present time” (Luke 12:56).
Participate in nonviolent action: Translate concern into action. Support those in Israel, the Occupied Territories and throughout the world who work for justice through peaceful means. We urge Americans to become educated about the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and to explore this and other forms of legitimate, nonviolent action and other opportunities to become actively involved.
Engage with your government: Advocate with local and national U.S. government elected representatives and officials, as Christians who are committed to justice, peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. Support political candidates who do the same.
The challenge and the hope
As Christian denominations, congregations, peace fellowships, mission networks and faith-based grassroots organizations continue their work for justice, we are witnessing an intensification of the reaction from both Jewish and Christian groups who are opposed to a change in the status quo of unconditional support of Israel. The opposition takes several forms, including:  (1) charges that the Palestinian and U.S. Kairos documents are anti-Semitic or partake of the so-called “delegitimization” of Israel, (2) calls for the abandonment of divestment, boycott and sanction campaigns as disruptive to Christian-Jewish relations and the peace process, calling instead for a reliance on “positive investment” in Palestine, negotiations, and “interfaith dialogue,” and (3) overt attempts to drive a wedge between Palestinian Christians and Christians globally but especially North Americans, falsely accusing Palestinian Christians of endorsing violence and bringing back archaic anti-Semitic tropes. We will see an escalation of these attacks in the coming years as the church-led movement to end Apartheid in our time gains momentum. As this battle is fought increasingly on theological grounds, this means that not only is justice for Palestinians being threatened, but that Christianity itself and the faithfulness of the church to the message of the Gospels is under assault.
As the movement grows to respond boldly and faithfully to the Palestinian, these voices of opposition will become louder, more strident, and more accusatory. The walls that have been built on Palestinian land to separate people from people, brother from brother and sister from sister will be built thicker and higher.  But no one can build a wall in our hearts. “Hope,” states the Kairos Palestine document, “is the capacity to see God in the midst of trouble, and to be co-workers with the Holy Spirit who is dwelling in us.” Standing before the wall in Jerusalem, we hear the Good News: that we can bring down that wall. That it will fall, that in fact it is already coming down.
Mark Braverman is a Jewish American who writes and lectures internationally on the theological and interfaith issues related to the search for peace in Israel and Palestine. He has been closely involved in the growth of the international church movement to support the cause of Palestinian rights. In 2009 he participated in the launch of the Kairos Palestine document in Bethlehem. Braverman is Program Director for Kairos USA, a movement to unify and mobilize American Christians to take a prophetic stance for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. He is the author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, Beaufort Books, 2011, and the forthcoming A Wall in Jerusalem:  Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Peace in Israel and Palestine, Jericho Books, 2013.

The Wall in Abu Dis, West Bank, Palestine. Photo: Dee Poujade

thanks to: Mark Braverman

Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine – Pauline Coffman

May 20th, 2013

Guest Editor’s Note: This week on Ecclesio we will read five articles reporting on the North American response to Kairos Palestine, a confession of faith written by Palestinian Christians in 2009, calling for solidarity in their hour of need. The document is translated from its original Arabic into twenty languages, and is called A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. With all the heads of churches in the Holy Land signing this confession of faith, it is a unique call to action to the Christian community around the world.

This week’s articles on Ecclesio will report on some of the actions taken by U.S. denominations in response to this call. On Friday, we will read a report on the Canadian response.

As a Presbyterian Elder living in New York City, I was glad and proud to see our General Assembly receive Kairos Palestine for study in 2010, even though some tried to say its call for non-violent economic action should be considered violent because of the long, violent Christian history against Jews. I hope Christians of conscience will take the time to read, reflect, and act on this call from the fast-dwindling Christians of the Holy Land. The Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) has provided a good introduction online and the full document too. The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), on whose board I serve, has produced a small and well-used study guide for groups, which also includes the full document. It is available through the denomination’s online store.

Today
Pauline Coffman
Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine

Tuesday
Mark Braverman
Kairos Time: A U.S. Call to Action

Wednesday
Susanne Hoder
An Awakening: American Churches embrace targeted economic actions in response to Kairos Palestine

Thursday
Katherine Cunningham
Response to Kairos Palestine: “The Letter of 15” and the use of U.S. military aid by Israel in Palestine

Friday
Robert Assaly
The Canadian response to Kairos Palestine

Noushin Framke
Guest Director
May 20, 2013

Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine
By Dr. Pauline M. Coffman

Responding to the growing need among Christians for an ecumenical and action-oriented response to the Kairos Palestine confession, issued in 2009 by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, a group of fourteen clergy, theologians and laypersons met in June 2011 at Elmhurst College in Illinois to inaugurate the movement.  The opening of Kairos Palestine* cries out:  “A moment of truth!  Here is a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering…  Why now?  Because we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”  The urgency of the statement demanded a response.

.The organizing group stemmed from a meeting between Mark Braverman, a Jewish writer and retired psychologist, and Cotton Fite, an Episcopalian priest and psychotherapist. Their meeting occurred at a Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) meeting in Washington, D.C. in May 2011.  After consulting with Don Wagner, Presbyterian (PCUSA) clergy and longtime Chicago advocate for a just peace for Israel and Palestine, they issued invitations for the inaugural meeting in Illinois.

Mark Braverman, coming from a Zionist background, was transformed on his views on Israel/Palestine during a visit in 2006 as he witnessed Israel’s military occupation and met peace activists and civil society leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.  A clinical and community psychologist, Mark returned to the U.S. and wrote the story of his transformation and awakening in Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, published in 2010.

Mark was present in Bethlehem in 2009 when Kairos Palestine was launched and was keenly aware of the urgency of the call from Palestinian Christians to Christians around the world asking for solidarity. Accordingly, he opened the 2011 Illinois meeting by emphasizing the need for a grassroots movement in the U.S. to help bring about the end to Israeli apartheid.  He cited the role of U.S. churches in the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. and the movement to end South African apartheid.  He stressed the role of the U.S. church in allowing the urgent human rights tragedy to unfold and noted the recent emergence of Kairos movements in South Africa, Europe and Asia in response to the Kairos Palestine call.  The group gathered in Illinois believed it was time we as Americans confessed our complicity and issued a call to action in the U.S.

Several of those attending the June meeting in Illinois, including myself, were among the 10 representing Kairos USA movement at the Kairos for Global Justice conference in Bethlehem, Palestine, in December 2011. The experience of being with delegates from all around the globe impressed upon us the need for and importance of a response from the U.S., and the vision for Kairos USA began to take shape. In addition to participating in the conference, our group planned the next gathering at which work on the Kairos USA confessing statement would begin.

Less than three months later, over 40 people from across the country and the Christian spectrum gathered at the Stony Point Conference Center in New York in February 2012. The plan was to study, worship and pray together as we reflected and constructed the framework of the Kairos USA statement, “Call to Action: U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document.” It is important to note that delegates came from mainline churches as well as evangelical and Pentecostal ones. There was a good diversity of backgrounds as well as theological opinions present, which made the gathering all the more potent and moving. The convergence of the diverse perspectives was striking, as everyone offered points to include in the statement that emerged as the Kairos USA response to Kairos Palestine.

Kairos USA launched its statement in June 2012, in time to reach those attending the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly and the Episcopal Church’s General Conference. A study guide was developed to help American Christians understand what Palestinian Christians are calling on us to do. This includes exploring and understanding nonviolence from a variety of perspectives, both practical and theological. The free study guide can be downloaded from the site.

Since the launch in 2012, hundreds of Christian leaders and lay people representing many different perspectives of Christianity have signed on in support of the movement and call to action; their names can be seen on the Kairos USA website:  www.kairosusa.org.  The movement is growing and new supporters can sign on at the website. Join us!

Tomorrow, Dr. Mark Braverman will present and interpret the theology of the Kairos USA confession of faith and its promise for a just peace here on Ecclesio.

* This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when they wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in their land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades.  Read more here.

Pauline Coffman is a professor and director (retired) of the School of Adult Learning, North Park University, Chicago, IL.  She is a member of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA), the Middle East Task Force of Chicago Presbytery, and the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy.  Pauline attends First United Church of Oak Park, IL (union PCUSA and UCC), and is co-leading a seminar to Israel/Palestine in June 2013. Pauline serves on the Board of Directors of Kairos USA.

thanks to: Pauline Coffman