Friday, August 10, 2012

Meet Me in St Louis!

Dear friends,

I continue to send most of my emails in my capacity as National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, via our listserve there. If you aren't on it yet, please join by clicking here!

I have been working most of the year on two church divestment campaigns, both of which ended with some historic victories. Here are my accounts of both:

- My article on Jadaliyya about the Presbyterian divestment and boycott initiatives
- Our statement reporting back from the Methodist general conference

The movement is growing more quickly than most of us can keep up with. We are reaching a critical mass and a breaking point (see the Jadaliyya article above for what I mean) with some victories we thought would take many more years to achieve.

That's why I'm so excited to announce our upcoming national organizers conference in St Louis. See our announcement below. I hope many of you can make it!

~ Anna

Join the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University!
Register by August 21 for $80 registration and special hotel room rates!

Our conference is an opportunity for our member groups and activists from across the country to come together and strengthen our efforts to end U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. With nearly 380 member groups now a part of the coalition, this year's conference will be a great opportunity for strategizing, networking and sharing our achievements and struggles.

Register and find more information at www.endtheoccupation.org/2012conference.

We will start the conference at 7:00pm on Friday, September 21 with a panel discussion on the Arab uprisings and their impact on organizing to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel.

Speakers and presenters include:

Dalit Baum, Co-founder of Who Profits from the Occupation
Hatem Bazian, Chairman of American Muslims for Palestine
Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Remi Kanazi, Author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance
Sydney Levy is Director of Advocacy at Jewish Voice for Peace
Linda Sarsour, National Advocacy Director for the National Network for Arab American Communities.

The weekend's program will include panels and workshops discussing:

Engaging Faith Communities
BDS Training
Campus Activism
Academic and Cultural Boycott
Organizing and Coalition Building.

Check out our website to register, book your hotel room, and submit a workshop proposal.

Contact Ramah Kudaimi at membership@endtheoccupation.org or 202-332-0994 if you have any questions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Urgent Call to Action on the 65th Day of a Hunger Strike by Khader Adnan

Dear friends,

A Palestinian man named Khader Adnan is now on his 65th day of a hunger strike since December 18th, 2011. He could die at any moment--he is in "immediate danger of death." Yesterday, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association published this update . Here is one excerpt:

Israel's High Court of Justice has today scheduled a petitions hearing regarding the case of Khader Adnan to take place Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 11:30am. The petition was filed by Khader Adnan's lawyers on 15 February. The High Court of Justice was provided with a detailed medical report prepared on 14 February by an Israeli-accredited doctor on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel). Despite the elaborate medical report, which confirmed that Khader Adnan "is in immediate danger of death," and that "a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival," the Israeli High Court appointed the petition session for 23 February with no guarantees that a decision will be made on the same day. By then, Khader Adnan—if alive—will have reached the 69th day of his ongoing hunger strike.

Ways to take action and more background information on Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees can be found in the following Urgent Call to Action issued today by ddameer, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights:

We call upon you to exert all possible influence and pressure on the Israeli Authorities to immediately release detainee Khader Adnan, whose life is in immediate danger as he has been on a hunger strike for the past 64 days.

The arbitrary detention of Adnan commenced on 17 December 2011, when he was kidnapped from his home in the northern West Bank village of Arrabe, during a nightly raid carried out by Israeli soldiers. His two young daughters and pregnant wife were witness to this.

Adnan initiated his current hunger strike on 18 December, protesting being detained without charges or being notified of the reason for his detention. He is being detained without charge or trial under a four-month administrative detention order, which could be indefinitely renewed for the duration of six months.

For the past decades Israel has applied the procedure of administrative detention on a large scale, systematically imprisoning thousands of Palestinians, as a tool of political oppression. This is a grave violation of the fourth Geneva Convention as well as the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture.

Khader Adnan has the law on his side. His life should be saved and the law should be respected. We urge you to make direct contact with the responsible Israeli officials and authorities, demanding the immediate release of Khader Adnan, in a critical attempt to save his life.

Finally, please adopt this call and spread the appeal from your respective capacity and/or organization.

It is time to act. Tomorrow might be too late.

Contact:

Minister of Justice, Yaakov Neeman
29 Tsalch Adin Street
Jerusalem 91490
Telephone: +972 2 646-6666
Fax: +972 2 670-6357
Email: pniot@justice.gov.il

Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Danny Efroni
6 David Elazar Street
Hakirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Fax: +972 3 569 4526
Email: evimn@idf.gov.il

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defence
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 69 16940 / 62757

Commander of the IDF in the West Bank, Major-General Avi Mizrahi
GOC Central Command
Military Post 01149
Battalion 877, Israel Defense Forces, Israel
Fax: +972 2 530 5724


Khader Adnan's original appeal hearing took place on 9 February in a room at Zif Medical Center in Safad where Khader was hospitalized due to his medical condition as resulting from his ongoing hunger strike. In disregard to his medical condition the Court of Appeals delayed its decision until 13 February 2012, which marked Khader's 58th day of his ongoing hunger strike. The decision statement rejecting the appeal issued by Judge Moshe Tirosh stated that Judge Tirosh found that the administrative order decision based on the "secret evidence" was balanced, and that Khader had only himself to blame for his medical condition owing to his choice to continue his hunger strike.

All of the above can be found on the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation blog here.

As always, for more frequent reports from me, please join the US Campaign email list, join my Facebook page, and/or follow me on Twitter. Links to do all three are below.

Yours,
Anna

National Organizer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/fbanna
Twitter: http://twitter.com/anna_baltzer
Local Organizer, St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee
Homepage: www.AnnaInTheMiddleEast.com

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Take Action to Support Historic Church Divestment Resolutions + More!

Dear friends,

I just returned from an exhilarating National BDS Conference at the University of Pennsylvania this past weekend. Kicking off with a video of support from the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, hundreds of activists and academics gathered for two days of workshops, analysis, and entertainment, undeterred by a barrage of attacks by BDS opponents who attempted to smear organizers and speakers alike. Here is a press briefing that I did with keynote speaker Ali Abunimah, refuting the bogus charges. I just kept thinking of the old saying by Mahatma Gandhi:

"First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win."


So we've graduated! And we will win indeed!

Here is something I wrote about some historic church votes coming up. I'm really excited about it and wanted to share it with you. (If you'd like to get these kinds of updates from me in my capacity as National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, sign up at www.endtheoccupation.org -- in the right margin)…

Did you know that 2012 is poised to be a landmark year
for corporate accountability in the movement to end Israel's violations of Palestinian rights and international law?

After many years of hard work by activists in both denominations, the global United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) are voting over the next six months on resolutions to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard due to their complicity in the Israeli occupation [documented here]. US Campaign member groups United Methodist Kairos Response and Israel-Palestine Mission Network are leading the way in building support for the UMC resolution and Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility through Investment (MRTI)'s divestment recommendation, respectively.

It is hard to overstate the significance of these campaigns. Passage of these resolutions would encourage other institutions and major churches to take action. It would also send Israel one of the strongest messages yet that its oppressive policies will no longer be tolerated.

These are ambitious, winnable campaigns, but we need your help!

No matter what Israel/Palestine campaigning you are focused on, we urge you to find a way to support these campaigns, since success will surely advance all other efforts in some way. Here is a list of things you can do.

Challenge yourself to do at least 2 of the following...

1. Endorse the United Methodist resolution!
* Click here to endorse as an individual.
* Click here to submit an organizational endorsement.
* Click here to sign a petition if you participate in services provided by the UMC General Board of Pension & Health Benefits.

2. Sign this letter supporting the divestment recommendation of the Presbyterian MRTI! You can sign as an individual or on behalf of an organization.

3. Volunteer to help pass these resolutions! United Methodists and Presbyterians would be especially helpful, but really anyone can help. Any amount of support is appreciated. Please email organizer [at] endtheoccupation.org if you are interested.

This could be our turning point. Please join the Methodists, Presbyterians, and other people of conscience from around the country in supporting these campaigns today!

With excitement and anticipation,

Anna

PS. Here are a few exciting events coming up…

1. I will be presenting at these two conferences:

Friends of Sabeel - North America presents...

"A Time for Justice: Supporting Human Rights in Palestine-Israel"
Sacramento, CA
March 16 & 17

Click here for more information and to register.

"Breaking the Barriers to a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine"
Sunnyvale, CA
March 23 & 24

Click here for more information and to register.


Presenters include...

Salem Ajluni Consultant, UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Huwaida Arraf Palestinian Activist, Lawyer, Founder, International Solidarity Movement
Marc H. Ellis Professor of Jewish Studies & History, Baylor University
Noura Erakat Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University
Gerald Lenoir Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Rae Abileah Young Jewish and Proud; Code Pink
Dr. Hisham Ahmed Professor, St. Mary's College, Moraga, California
Rev. Naim Ateek author and founder of Sabeel, former canon pastor of the Episcopal Cathedral of Jerusalem
Dr. Dalit Baum Jewish-Israeli Activist; Co-founder of Who Profits
Dr. Hatem Bazian Founder of American Muslims for Palestine; Lecturer University of California, Berkeley
Laila El Haddad Author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between
Josh Ruebner National Advocacy Director, U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
Kristin Szremski Director of Media and Communications, American Muslims for Palestine
Cecilie Surasky Deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace
Rabbi Alissa Wise Director of Campaigns, Jewish Voice for Peace

...and me and many more!

Hope to see you there. Click on the links above to register or for more info on topics, scheduling, and more!


2. OCCUPY AIPAC! (Here's a message from CODEPINK, the organizers…)

We are excited to announce that plans for OCCUPY AIPAC are underway and we hope you will join us March 2-6 in Washington, DC again!

With the Occupy movement that has swept the country demanding social and economic justice, many have concluded that AIPAC -- the powerful pro-Israeli government lobby that distorts U.S. policy in the Middle East -- is a mandatory "occupy target". Adbusters, the magazine that issued the initial visionary call for the takeover of Wall St. on September 17th, has declared: "The time has come for the Occupy Movement to demand an end to the Occupation of Palestine... We need a hashtag, #occupyAIPAC" (Kalle Lasn).

Timed to coincide with the annual AIPAC policy conference in March 2012, the Occupy AIPAC summit will be a long weekend of teach-ins, cultural performances, protests and creative direct actions, and a sneak preview of the forthcoming film Roadmap to Apartheid. Our Saturday conference will feature educational panels on Iran, Palestine, the Arab Uprisings and the Occupy Movement (click here to see the list of speakers). Sponsors and endorsers include the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Institute of Policy Studies, Just Foreign Policy, Interfaith Peace Builders (IFPB), the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), Jewish Voice for Peace, several Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, and over 120 other groups.

Right now AIPAC is trying to drag us into a disastrous war with Iran, just as they pushed the Iraq war. We must show our opposition by exposing AIPAC and standing against a war with Iran. AIPAC's underhanded tactics and their manipulation of our political process destroys the possibility of a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. Recent public criticisms of the Israel lobby make the call to Occupy AIPAC all the more relevant.

Now is the time to make a large, people-powered push to show our opposition to the stranglehold the Israel lobby continues to hold over our government. Your support made last year's Move Over AIPAC a success and we need you again in 2012.

Register for the conference or support this summit with a donation. Your outreach and presence is critical to help us ensure a strong turnout, because now is the time to Occupy AIPAC, not Palestine!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Flash Mob Video & 2012 Delegation to Palestine!

Dear friends,

I hope you have enjoyed some rest and time with loved ones as the year comes to a close. During Christmas shopping peak, I joined with friends for a…

Wedding Flash Mob at Bed Bath & Beyond!

http://youtu.be/LEMygqMI-fg -- Check out the video and please pass it on!
(You will see I prioritized projecting the message over staying on tune :-).)

Looking into 2012, I am excited about the growing global BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaigns and an upcoming trip to Palestine to reconnect with the heart of the struggle. Being in Palestine always grounds me in why we all do this work -- why it must succeed and why it absolutely will succeed.

Want to join me? I am co-leading another delegation with the Interfaith Peace-Builders in May 2012 -- my third year in a row! (Last year, many of you donated to the St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee to help us send my colleague and friend Colleen Kelly to Palestine. Your generosity meant so much to both of us. You can read Colleen, my, and another of our colleague's dispatches from Palestine at http://www.pscinpalestine.blogspot.com/ .)

If you're interested, below is some information on the trip, as well as information about youth scholarships.

***

(Preface: I send this out with consciousness that travel to Palestine is not an option for everyone, especially for Palestinian-Americans who are routinely banned by Israel's practices of denying them entry. May these delegations no longer be necessary someday when Palestinians have the access to visit or live in their homeland that is their right.)

May 2012 Delegation to Palestine/Israel


An Environment Under Siege: Occupation's Effect on People and Nature

May 19 - June 1, 2012

Delegation Leaders: Anna Baltzer & Philip Farah

This delegation will explore current realities of life for Israelis and Palestinians, including settlements, the occupation, and the peace process—by learning directly from those living there. We will also explore issues pertaining to the intersection of environmental justice and human rights, delving into the ways in which the occupation has affected the environment and therefore the livelihood of Palestinians and Israelis. Topics may include freedom of access to land and water, sanitation and pollution, and deforestation. The itinerary will feature meetings with leaders of civil society groups, grassroots organizers, religious leaders, organizations with projects focused on the environment and more.

Join the Email List for This Delegation: http://tinyurl.com/7e5qjej

DEADLINE TO APPLY: Please apply by February 10, 2012 to ensure we'll have space and be able to arrange your flight. Our last several delegations have filled up several months before departure, so please apply as soon as possible to reserve your space. If you've missed the deadline, we might still be able to add you, but please contact us ASAP to see if this is a possibility.

Download Application for the Delegation
here: http://www.ifpb.org/documents/delegations/IFPB%20application.doc

Leaders:

Philip Farah is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, four years after his family lost their home in the 1948 War—the Nakba. Upon graduating from the American University of Beirut in 1968, he returned to occupied East Jerusalem and taught at several schools as well as Birzeit University in the West Bank. Before emigrating to the US in 1978, he was active in the first Palestinian-Israeli dialogue group opposed to the occupation. He is currently Vice President of the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace. He lives with his wife and three children in the Washington Metro area where he works as an economist.

Anna Baltzer is an award-winning speaker, writer, and organizer for Palestinian rights. Since she began volunteering with the International Women's Peace Service, documenting human rights abuses and supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance. Anna has appeared on television more than 100 times and lectured at more than 400 universities, schools, churches, mosques, and synagogues around the world. She is the author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. Currently, she is also the National Organizer with US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Anna previously co-led two IFPB delegations in 2010 & 2011.

Logistics:

The cost of the delegation will be around $2100. This includes 13 days of the delegation, hotel and home stay accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, local transportation, guides, speaker/event fees, basic tips and gratuities. Partial scholarships may be available for those with demonstrable need.

The cost does not include domestic and international airfare. Interfaith Peace-Builders works with a local travel agent in Jerusalem to secure the best group rates for the delegation to travel together on the same flight from Washington, DC to Israel/Palestine. Therefore, delegates do not need to book their own international airfare.

Delegates will be expected make arrangements to be in Washington DC by 2pm on May 19, 2012.

Click on the link to learn much more
about delegation specifics, including who we meet, cost, and application information: http://www.ifpb.org/delegations/default.html

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE!
(for the above or later delegations)

IFPB is offering two $1,000 scholarships for students and recent graduates. In addition, applicants will also be considered for smaller financial aid packages from IFPB, ranging from $250 - $500.

Apply at www.ifpb.org/1000scholarship

SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION DEADLINE: January 20, 2012

Scholarships will be applied towards delegation cost of $2,100 (Includes accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, guides, sustained support upon your return, and more). Cost does not include international or domestic airfare.

***

Thanks for reading this far! Best wishes for a new year full of fun, light, justice, and freedom for all. As I continue my work with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, you can receive more frequent emails from me by signing up for our email list on our homepage here: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/.

Warm wishes,

Anna

PS. Here's a quick petition for Professor Marc Ellis -- one of the most prominent Jewish theological voices against Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people -- whose job at Baylor University seems to be in jeopardy as a result of his political outspokenness. Sign here.

PPS. Social media: And as always, you can catch me on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Also, the International Women's Peace Service, with which I volunteered in Palestine for many years (my time with them is the subject of my book), is now on Facebook and posting updates daily. Join their page here!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Exciting Events & Conferences Coming Up!

Dear friends,

Long time no talk/type! As national organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, I now send most of my updates out on that email list. If you're not already on it, please subscribe by clicking here. (And you can click here for an action alert that I sent out yesterday.)

Below you'll find information about the following events I'll be a part of for the next few months:

Sept 16-19: National Organizers Conference, Washington, DC
Oct 2: Receiving AFSC's Inspiration of Hope Award with ALICE WALKER, Chicago
Nov 11-13: Friends of Sabeel - North America Conference, Atlanta
Nov 25-27: American Muslims for Palestine Annual Conference, Chicago


**********************

The US Campaign's 10th Annual National Organizers conference is coming up September 16 - 19 in Washington, DC! From California to Wisconsin to Hawaii, activists and representatives of member groups from around the country are joining us for this special event.

The conference will be held at the historic Thurgood Marshall Center featuring a fantastic lineup of presenters, including:

Omar Barghouti, founding member of the Palestinian civil society call for BDS
Dalit Baum, founder of the Israeli research group Who Profits From the Occupation
Rami Khouri, whose writing has informed public opinion throughout Europe, the Americas, and the Arab World
Cindy Corrie of the Rachel Corrie Foundation
Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Simon Shaheen, internationally renowned violinist and `oud player
… and wonderful speakers from American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Codepink, American Friends Service Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine, and more!

Early registration ends this Friday… Register now at a discount! Click here for more information.

**********************

I am extremely honored to be receiving the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Inspiration for Hope Award in October, along with the amazing Alice Walker (who will hopefully be there).

It will be at the AFSC Middle East Program's Annual Benefit, "Creating Connections, Renewing Commitments," open to all. Please save the date and join us on Sunday, October 2nd.

Alice Walker is a renowned author, poet and activist. In 1983, she became the first African-American woman to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel The Color Purple. She is author of more than thirty books, including her latest, Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine-Israel. Recently, she joined an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade.

The third award recipient will be Palestinian-American student activist Sami Kishawi, the third award recipient. There is limited seating, so please reserve your tickets today!

AFSC Middle East Program Annual Benefit
WHEN: Sunday, October 2, 1 - 4pm
WHERE: Columbus Park Refectory; 5701 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL

TICKETS: $50 - General Admission; $25 - Students

Please RSVP by September 20th to Miryam Rashid at mrashid [at] afsc.org or [three][one][two]-427-2533 x18 to reserve tickets. (Checks can be made out to AFSC - Middle East Program and mailed to: American Friends Service Committee; Miryam Rashid; 637 S. Dearborn, 3rd Floor; Chicago, IL 60605.)

**********************


I will be speaking at the upcoming Friends of Sabeel - North America Conference entitled:

"From Birmingham to Bethlehem: Jesus' Third Way of Nonviolence in Israel/Palestine"

November 10th-12th, Atlanta, GA

Details will be posted here.

**********************

Finally, I will be speaking at the American Muslims for Palestine Annual Conference Thanksgiving Weekend (but I won't be speaking on Turkey Day itself!) in Chicago.

Click here for lots of info about lodging, speakers, etc.

**********************

Hope to see you soon at one of these events. Thanks for reading!

Yours,

Anna



PS. If we aren't already connected on Facebook but you'd like us to be, please click here and "Like" me :-).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I Am Fasting Today

Shane Bauer & Josh Fattal, who have been held in Iranian detention for almost 2 years

Today, I am fasting in solidarity with my friends Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal, who were arrested and imprisoned in Iran almost two years ago. Sarah was freed last year, but Shane and Josh continue to suffer in Evin Prison, separated from their families and loved ones. Shane and Josh have gone on numerous hunger strikes in an effort to receive communications from their families, giving up the little food and comfort they have. It is likely they went on a hunger fast after their trial was postponed last month. I am fasting to remember and shed light on Shane’s and Josh’s plight, with hopes that they will soon be freed to come home to their families, who miss them terribly.

I have just returned from Palestine, where I met with Palestinian men, women, and children unjustly imprisoned for struggling nonviolently for freedom and equality. When I met them two years ago in Syria, Sarah and Shane were also working tirelessly for a better world, a dream I know they share with Josh. All those who support peace and self-determination for all people should keep Shane and Josh in their hearts and minds. Their struggle is our struggle.

For more information about Shane, Josh, and their fight for freedom, visit www.freethehikers.org

For more information on the fast, click here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Request from Anna, and Opportunities to Support/Visit Palestine...

Dear friends,


I have an announcement and a request.

First, the announcement: I will be co-leading a delegation to Palestine next month with Interfaith Peace-Builders! My co-leaders will be the fabulous Adam Horowitz (co-editor of Mondoweiss) and our Palestinian host on the ground, Said. The dates are May 21st – June 3rd, and there are still a few spots open! I've pasted the details below and encourage people to apply.


My request:

One of the delegates will be a dear friend of mine named Colleen. Colleen is one of the co-founders of our local group, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (STL-PSC). She works tirelessly for the group and the cause, dozens of hours a week, but she has never been to Palestine because she cannot afford to go.

Colleen is committed to trying to live a life of intentional poverty, in solidarity with those unable to live the lives of privilege that most of us do (and that Colleen could if she so chose). She also chooses poverty so that she is not in a position of having to pay taxes that support US-sponsored wars and the occupation of Palestine. She divides the majority of her time between working for the St Louis Palestine Solidarity committee, the local antiwar coalition "Instead of War," and Karenhouse where she lives, which is a volunteer-run Catholic Worker house that provides hospitality to homeless women and children.

Colleen is conflicted between her deep desire to visit Palestine and living a modest life. I and others at STL-PSC have encouraged her to go to Palestine because it is a dream of hers, and I know it will ground and strengthen her continuous local work here at home for justice in Palestine.

STL-PSC would like to send Colleen to Palestine but to do so we need to raise money. I don't know that I have ever sent a request for donations in the 5 years that I have had this list, but I would be grateful if people would consider contributing to STL-PSC to help us send Colleen to Palestine. If you are moved to do so, here is how you can:

* Tax-deductible: Send checks made out to "Instead of War" with "PSC – Travel" in the memo field to: Anna Baltzer; P.O. Box 2687; St Louis, MO 63116.

* Donate by PayPal or credit card by clicking the "Donate" button on my donations page. (Note: This is not tax-deductible but I will forward all donations this month to STL-PSC.)

* To make a tax-deductible donation online, email me at anna.baltzer@gmail.com for directions and I'll send you the steps.


The total needed for all her expenses is around $4,000 (airfare, delegation, food, and a week after the delegation traveling/working on the ground with me).

If the funds are raised, I will put an announcement on my donations page and return any checks received, unless you indicate that you would still like it to go to support STL-PSC's work—which is always very, very appreciated!

Thank you in advance for those of you who can contribute (and I understand that it's not an option for everyone).



Here's the delegation announcement…


- - - Please Forward - - -


May Delegation ~ only a few spots left!
Voices of the Peacemakers
May 21 – June 3, 2011


This delegation will explore Palestinian and Israeli efforts to achieve peace and a resolution to their conflict based on justice. The delegation will feature meetings with Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers – leaders of civil society groups, grassroots organizers, religious leaders and more. IFPB's May-June delegation also traditionally focuses on the annual commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the founding of the State of Israel.


Leaders: Anna Baltzer & Adam Horowitz will be leading this delegation. Anna has just returned from a European tour and continues her important work as National Organizer at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Adam continues his work through Mondoweiss and has also been on the road, presenting his co-edited book, The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.


Deadline to Apply: Applications will be accepted until the week of April 18th, when applicants will be notified of availability. Spaces are already filling up, so contact IFPB if you would like to travel with us. Apply soon to reserve your space!


CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MAY DELEGATION


- - - Please Forward - - -



Other opportunities to travel to Palestine…

In case you want to go on a delegation but those dates don't work for you, here are some other great options:


June 24 – July 10: Health & Human Rights Project

July 10 – 17: Birthright Unplugged

July 16 – 29: Interfaith Peace-Builders

Oct 29 – Nov 11: Interfaith Peace-Builders


There is also a Palestinian call for people of conscience worldwide to visit Palestine July 8 - 19 for actions. According to the call [which you can read here], visitors "will be accommodated locally and enjoy Palestinian hospitality and a full program of peace work in seven Palestinian towns and villages, networking, and fellowship." I believe this opportunity is for solidarity work on the ground rather than touring as a delegation.


Finally, July 10 – July 25, ICAHD will also be hosting internationals and Israeli to join together with Palestinians in Anata, East Jerusalem to resist the Occupation and rebuild demolished homes of Palestinian families. "We invite you to participate in the incredible opportunity to learn first-hand about life under Occupation [in] `Creating Alternative Facts on the Ground,' ICAHD's 2011 Summer Rebuilding Experience… In addition to construction, there is a full program including field trips, cultural events, films, and much more. Click here for more information.


As you can see, there are many great opportunities to visit or work in Palestine. If you've never been, I promise, it will change your life.


Opportunities to connect with people in Gaza…


A couple months ago, students in Gaza sent out the following letter to connect with students in the US. Contact info is below the letter.

We are students in Gaza from the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), and would like to work with solidarity activists at American universities. We partake in many activities here in Gaza and would like to do whatever we can to support the international student solidarity movements, especially with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns. We frequently write letters out of Gaza… encouraging people to participate in the boycott and thanking people who have supported us.

We would like to share ideas, perhaps have a video conference, hear what activities you're doing, distribute information or narratives from us, as Palestinian university students, or more broadly anyone suffering in besieged Gaza.

In solidarity,
Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Reply by email to Adie Nistelrooy: adie_mormech@hotmail.com


Also, along with boats from many other countries, the US Boat To Gaza (ustogaza.org - but the website is on the fritz), named "The Audacity of Hope," will be sailing to Gaza in late May on the one-year anniversary of the Flotilla massacre. They will carry with them letters from people around the US to the people of Gaza.

You can send letters to the people in Gaza to: Letters to Gaza; 119 West 72nd St, #158; New York, NY 10023


Thanks again to those able to contribute to the cause through supporting Colleen's trip, solidarity work on the ground in Palestine, and/or activism here in the US. It makes a difference.


Yours,

Anna


PS. I know that this is long overdue, but since I haven't sent an email out since the one announcing the Palestine Papers, I wanted to make a correction that they were released by Al Jazeera and The Guardian, not Wikileaks. Sorry about that.


PPS. To get much more frequent (and shorter!) updates from me on Facebook, please click "Like" at the top of my Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ACTION ALERT and More on Cultural Boycott of Israel

Dear friends,


I regret that I've written so little while there is so much going on! (I send out information more frequently on my public Facebook page, if you want to "friend/like" me.) I hope people are doing well. Happy New Year to all.


This weekend's release by Al Jazeera and The Guardian of the Palestine Papers have exposed the utter futility of US-brokered peace talks. I am more convinced than ever that the solution lies with listening to the Palestinian people themselves, civil society, and their call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law and respects Palestinians' human rights.


Below is a variation of a piece/action alert on cultural boycott that I recently sent out on the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation listserv (you can sign up here) in my new capacity as national organizer…


But first, a few invitations/appeals:


1. Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation invite you to a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day March 6th – 7th in Washington, DC. Additionally, there will be a Campus Organizing Conference Marcy 5th. For more information or to register, click here.


2. Tomorrow is the nation-wide Day of Action to Stop FBI Repression. Since September, 23 antiwar activists have been subpoenaed by the FBI, many of them involved in Palestine solidarity work. Nine of the activists were called to appear at a grand jury tomorrow, so activists will be protesting at federal buildings, FBI offices and other locations around the country in solidarity. Click here to find actions near you!


3. I have a close friend in Palestine who needs help. Due to family issues, she feels she has no choice but to leave Palestine, even though it's the hardest decision she's ever had to make. She is an incredible activist and would be a major asset to any campus or community (she's open to coming to study or to work). Contact me if you think there's a university or employer that might be able to help.




Action Alert & More on Cultural Boycott…


One of the strongest tools of pressure to end South African Apartheid was the refusal of performance artists and other cultural ambassadors to play in the apartheid state. Diverse South Africans of conscience joined with supporters around the world in imploring performers and other public figures not to visit South Africa because to do so would send a public statement of normalization with the apartheid state, thereby implicitly condoning its policies.


Inspired by this example, Israelis of conscience and supporters around the world have joined Palestinians in calling for a similar cultural boycott of Israel until it ends its occupation and discriminatory apartheid policies.


To perform in an apartheid state is wrong, especially considering that those living under apartheid are often blocked from attending performances by checkpoints, discriminatory permit systems and persistent military and police brutality.

In addition, Palestinian artists have been punished for decades. Musical groups have been prevented from performing abroad, they've been arrested based on song lyrics, and they continue to suffer daily under military occupation.


Many artists have responded and cancelled appearances in Israel, including Carlos Santana, Gil Scott Heron, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Devendra Banhart, the Tindersticks, Meg Ryan, and Dustin Hoffman. These cancelations, along with other boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) victories, send a message that there will be no "business as usual" with an apartheid state; they have caused unprecedented concern amongst Israelis about the growing cost of occupation and apartheid. This is a Palestinian-led nonviolent means of pressure that can work and there's an exciting opportunity to strengthen it right now!


Earlier this week, American R&B/soul singer-songwriter Macy Gray began contemplating the call for boycott and published the following on her Facebook page:


I'm booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I'm getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I …dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?


Well, Macy, we're glad you asked!


Click here to send an email to Macy Gray and her tour managers, urging her to boycott apartheid.


And, if you've got a Facebook account, you can also leave a comment on her official page and to tell her what you think! (You have to "Like" her page first.)


Cultural boycott of Israel is part of a larger call launched in 2004 by dozens of Palestinian unions, federations, associations, and civil society organizations: the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Read the call and learn more about the campaign here.


Note that cultural boycott applies not only to foreigners presenting or showcasing their work in Israel, but likewise products or events sponsored either by an official Israeli body (governmental, municipal, etc) or by a non-Israeli institution serving to re-brand Israel in a positive or normal light, thereby whitewashing its illegal state actions. Products or events that promote "false symmetry or `balance'" between the occupier and the occupied are also boycottable according to PACBI's carefully explained guildelines here.


Want some examples of other cultural boycott actions? Groups in five cities did some creative street protesting last year when the Israel Ballet came to town. Israeli activists put on this flash mob when the Cape Town Opera performed in Israel.


Confused or conflicted about cultural boycott? You may find it useful to read the letter sent to Macy from Israeli citizens in BOYCOTT!: Supporting the Palestinian Call from Within.


Confused or conflicted about the Apartheid analogy? I strongly recommend reading the excellent booklet, "Is Israel An Apartheid State?," from member-group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – USA, summarizing a legal study commissioned by the government of South Africa on Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza.


Once again, if you haven't yet, click here to send an email to Macy Gray, asking her not to sing for Apartheid!


Thanks for reading,


Anna

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Voices for Justice Under Threat from All Sides! Breaking News and Action Alerts

Dear friends,

I'm writing to you for the first time as part-time national organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation! I'm excited about the road ahead and helping to build the movement for justice in Palestine through our coalition of more than 325 peace and justice groups around the country. If you aren't already a member (as a group or individual), you should join!

Alternative voices on this issue are being silenced more and more every day. In particular, I want to tell you about three recent incidents and ongoing struggles to get the message out, and what you can do about it!



*********** Please distribute widely! ***********



~ FLASH MOB VIDEO SHUT-DOWN ~



Earlier this month, about forty members and friends of our St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (STL-PSC) got down to a parody of Lady Gaga & Beyoncé's song "Telephone" in a BDS Flash Mob at Best Buy and AT&T stores, urging holiday shoppers to boycott Israeli apartheid and hang up on Motorola. The action was covered in media around the world and video received more than 35,000 hits on YouTube in less than a week!


Shortly after the count hit 35,000, the video was removed on an apparent claim of copyright infringement by Warner Music Group (WMG). The STL-PSC is firmly convinced, as advised by legal representation, that our video does not infringe copyright, because it constitutes a "fair use" of the song and parodies of songs are protected under a US Supreme Court decision in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose. Furthermore, the song copyright appears to be owned by a subsidiary of UMG Recordings, not WMG at all. The WMG seemingly has no claim to the song; on the other hand, WMG's relationship with Motorola is well known.


STL-PSC believes that this is an infringement on freedom of expression and plans to challenge the take-down. There are more than 1,000 Lady Gaga flash mob videos on YouTube, many using the same song with far more hits. None of them have been shut down by WMG. Why was this video selected? What does WMG not want the world to know about its partner Motorola?


The targeting of our video by Motorola's partner tells me that our action made Motorola and/or its partners uncomfortable… which means we're doing something right! Motorola should feel uncomfortable for complicity in war crimes, and now more than ever we need to keep the pressure on!


Don't let Motorola and WMG silence people of conscience! Tens of thousands of you saw the video and circulated it. My request: IF YOU HAVEN'T SENT IT TO PEOPLE WHO SHOULD SEE IT, PLEASE CONSIDER DOING SO NOW! As we've seen, this is exactly what Motorola and WMG don't want.


If you haven't seen the video yet… take a look! It's less than 4 minutes long and really fun.

It was reposted here: www.stl-psc.org/?p=149


Finally, CLICK HERE to quickly send a letter to Motorola management and sign a pledge. If you're unaware of the campaign to boycott Motorola, our video explains the company's complicity in Israeli occupation and war crimes.


By the way, we were inspired in part by an excellent flash mob in a Philadelphia local grocer using the same Lady Gaga song (it hasn't been shut down). The group, Philly BDS, is calling for a boycott of Sabra and Tribe hummus, which subsidize Israel's human rights abuses.



~ FBI REPRESSION AGAINST PALESTINE SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS ~



Yesterday morning, the FBI delivered subpoenas to another four anti-war activists involved in Palestine solidarity work. This brings the count to 23 in less than three months since coordinated FBI raids in Minneapolis and Chicago targeted an initial 14 activists in late September. Their computers, passports, documents, family photos, and even children's artwork were taken away.


The people targeted are well-known and beloved organizers and outspoken commentators around the country. It is critical that we protest this attempt to silence and criminalize anti-war activism.


Here's what you can do:


Sign and Circulate this petition: http://www.iacenter.org/stopfbi/


Call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to stand with the 23 subpoenaed activists. Dial 312-353-5300, then dial 0 (zero) for the operator and ask to leave a message with the Duty Clerk (paralegal). Possible wording: "My name is __________, I am from _______. I am calling U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to demand that he call off the Grand Jury, stop FBI repression against the anti-war and international solidarity activists, and demand the immediate return of all confiscated personal materials." (Then, send a short message to stopfbi@gmail.com to let them know that you called.)


Organize or attend events/actions at your local FBI office or Federal Building. Email stopfbi@gmail.com with questions or to get an event listed on the website.


You can visit www.stopfbi.net for more information, to sign up for action alerts, to join the Facebook page, to donate to legal expenses, and more.



~ SEATTLE BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN ~



Recently, the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign purchased signs on public buses to educate the public about Israel's war crimes. The local Jewish Federation mobilized to stop it. King 5 News conducted a poll about whether to allow the signs or not. The vote was neck and neck until a major surge in support yesterday (good work!), after which King 5 closed the polls.


The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign will be sending out action alerts periodically. Visit their website for information about the group, and read this article to learn more details about the campaign.


I will be posting related action alerts as they come in on my Facebook page. I mostly distribute information on Facebook these days, so for more frequent updates from me, please join (click "Like" at the top of) my Facebook page here.


Thank you everyone for reading, and thank you especially if you're taking action in some way (that's the most important thing)!

Peace,

Anna


PS. I don't usually forward articles but the following is a letter written from prison by my close friend Abdallah Abu Rahme, a wonderful human being and an inspiring leader of popular resistance in Palestine. His ongoing imprisonment certainly fits in with the theme of this email…



A year ago tonight, on International Human Rights Day, our apartment in Ramallah was broken into by the Israeli military in the middle of the night and I was torn away from my wife Majida, my daughters Luma and Layan, and my son Laith, who at the time was only nine months old.

As the coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements I was convicted of "organizing illegal demonstrations" and "incitement." The "illegal demonstrations" refer to the nonviolent resistance campaign that my village has been waging for the last six years against Israel's Apartheid Wall that is being built on our land.

I find it strange that the military judges could call our demonstrations illegal and charge me for participating in and organizing them after the world's highest legal body, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has ruled that Israel's wall within the occupied territories is illegal and must be dismantled. Even the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Wall's route in Bil'in is illegal.

I have been accused of inciting violence: this charge is also puzzling. If the check points, closures, ongoing land theft, wall and settlements, night raids into our homes and violent oppression of our protests does not incite violence, what does?

Despite the occupations constant and intense incitement to violence in Bil'in, we have chosen another way. We have chosen to protest nonviolently together with Israeli and International supporters. We have chosen to carry a message of hope and real partnership between Palestinians and Israelis in the face of oppression and injustice. It is this message that the Occupation is attempting to crush through its various institutions including the military courts. An official from
the Israeli Military Prosecution shamelessly told my Attorney, Gaby Lasky, that the objective of the military in my prosecution is to "put an end" to these demonstrations.

The crime of incitement that I have been convicted of is defined under Israeli military decree 101 regarding the prohibition of hostile action of propaganda and incitement as "The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order" and carries a 10 year maximal sentence. This definition is so broad and vague that it can be applied to almost any action or statement. Actually, these words
could be considered incitement if they were spoken in the occupied territories.

On the 11th of October of this year I was sentenced to 12 months in prison, plus 6 months suspended sentence for 3 years, and a fine. My family and I, especially my daughters, were counting the days to my release. The military prosecution waited until just a few days before
the end of my sentence before appealing against my release, arguing that I should be imprisoned longer. I have completed my sentence but remain in prison. Though international law considers myself and other activists as human rights defenders, the occupation authorities consider us criminals whose freedom and other rights must be denied. In the year that I have spent in prison, the demonstrations in Bil'in, Naalin, Al Maasara, and Beit Omar have continued. Nabi Saleh and other villages have taken up the popular struggle. Within this year, the International campaign calling for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until it complies with International law has grown considerably, as have legal actions against Israeli war crimes. I hope that soon Israel will no longer be able to ignore the clear condemnation of its policies coming from around the world.

In the year that I have spent in prison, my son Laith has taken his first steps and said his first words, and Luma and Layan have been growing from children to beautiful young girls. I have not been able to be with them, to walk holding their hands, to take them to school as they and I are used to. Laith does not know me now. And my wife Majida has had to care for our family alone.

In 2010 children in Bil'in and throughout the West bank are still being awakened in the middle of the night to find guns pointed at their heads. In the year that I have spent in prison, the military has carried out dozens of night raids in Bil'in with the purpose of removing those involved in the popular struggle against the occupation.

Imagine if heavily armed men forced their way into your home in the middle of the night. If your children were forced to watch as their father or brother was blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken away. Or if you as a parent were forced to watch this being done to your child.

This week the door of our cell was opened and a sixteen year boy was pushed inside. My friend Adeeb Abu Rahmeh was shocked to recognize his son, Mohammed, whom Adeeb had not seen since he himself was arrested during a nonviolent demonstration 16 months ago.

Mohammad smiled when he saw his Father, but his face was red and swollen and it was clear that he was in pain. He told us that he had been taken from his home two nights previously. He spent the first night blindfolded and shackled, being moved from one place to another. The next day after a terrifying, disoriented, and sleepless night he was taken to an interrogation room, his blindfold was removed and an interrogator showed him pictures of people from the village. When questioned about the first picture he told the interrogator that he did not recognize the person. The interrogator slapped him hard across the face. This continued with every question that Mohammad was asked: when he did not give the answer that the interrogator wanted, he was slapped, punched and threatened. Mohammad's treatment is not unusual.

Young boys from our village have been taken from their homes violently and report being denied sleep, food, and water and being kept in Isolation and threatened and often beaten during interrogation.

What was unusual about Mohammad is that he did not satisfy his interrogator and with competent representation was released within a few days. Usually children, just because they are children, will say whatever the interrogator wants them to say to make such treatment stop. Adeeb, myself, and thousands of other prisoners are being held in prison based on testimonies forced or coerced out of these children. No child should ever receive such treatment.

When the children who had testified against me retracted what they said in interrogation and told the military judge that their testimonies where given under duress, the judge declared them hostile witnesses.

Adeeb Abu Rahmah and I are the first to be convicted with incitement and participation in illegal demonstrations since the first Intifada but, unfortunately, it does not seem that we will be the last.

I often wonder what Israeli leaders think they will achieve if they succeed in their goal of suppressing the Palestinian popular struggle? Is it possible that they believe that our people can sit quietly and watch as our land is taken from us? Do they think that we can face our children and tell them that, like us, they will never experience freedom? Or do they actually prefer violence and killing to our form of nonviolent struggle because it camouflages their ongoing theft and gives them an excuse to continue using us as guinea pigs for their weapons?

My eldest daughter Luma was nine years old when I was arrested. She is now ten. After my arrest she began going to the Friday demonstrations in our village. She always carries a picture of me in her arms. The adults try to look after her but I still worry for my little girl. I wish that she could enjoy her childhood like other children, that she could be studying and playing with her friends. But through the walls and barbed wire that separates us I hear my daughter's message to me, saying: "Baba, they cannot stop us. If they take you away, we will take your place and continue to struggle for justice." This is the message that I want to bring you today. From beyond the walls, the barbed wire, and the prison bars that separate Palestinians and Israelis.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Great Resources! New Interview…

Dear friends,


Here are three fantastic resources that everyone in the movement should check out and take advantage of!


Below them is an invitation to an important fundraiser for Rep. Donna Edwards, who has come under harsh criticism for speaking out against Israel's attacks on Gaza and for even attending the fundraiser sponsored by the pro-justice PAC, New Policy.


Finally, at the end, you'll find an interview I did published on PULSE and Huffington Post. See below…


EXCELLENT NEW RESOURCES


1. "Is Israel an Apartheid State?" is a highly recommended booklet summarizing a legal study by the South African Human Sciences Research Center. It systematically outlines criteria of the crime of Apartheid and analyzes Israeli laws in the West Bank and Gaza as they relate to it (it acknowledges its limitations of not having pursued the same analysis of Israeli laws towards Palestinians within Israel). This is an illuminating (I learned a lot!) and energizing tool for organizing. You can view the PDF here but purchasing paper copies here puts it in a much more reader-friendly format.


If you email me back with your address I will send you a free printed copy.


2. There's a great new website and billboard campaign by the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine. It launched in Chicago on Oct 4th with billboards on the city's mass transit system that read "End U.S. Military Aid to Israel." The campaign website, www.TwoPeoplesOneFuture.org, is full of well-documented information and talking points. I consider myself well-versed and I was taking lots of notes! Take a look...


There are lots of photos and updates on the campaign's Facebook page.


3. A comprehensive list of global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) actions in recent history can be found here—88 pages worth! The list has doubled since the Flotilla attacks. Listed are BDS actions by governments, unions, churches, universities, artists, Israelis, and more.


It includes the exciting action in Oakland, California where dock-workers refused to cross a picket line to unload Israeli cargo. Read article here.


****************


NEW POLICY FUNDRAISER FOR DONNA EDWARDS


Rep. Donna Edwards was one of 25 members of Congress to vote against HR 34, a resolution defending Israel's Winter `08-`09 attacks on Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians dead (most of them civilians). She also voted against HR 867, a resolution to dismiss the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report. She has co-signed a letter highlighting the devastating effects of Israel's blockade, and has even visited Gaza herself.


Needless to say, Edwards has come under increasing criticism from the Washington Jewish Week and pro-Israel lobbies, including J Street, for her work and for agreeing to attend an event hosted by New Policy PAC, which supports a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In light of the increasing criticism, New Policy has decided to extend an open invitation to all to attend the reception on Saturday, October 16 at 1pm, held at the Sheraton North Hotel in Washington, DC.


Please note there are no minimum contribution requirements for the invitation. Come and bring friends and family. Show your support for an open debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States.


RSVP to info@newpolicy.org. Make a contribution to Edwards' campaign or send a check to New Policy PAC at PO Box 73526, Washington, DC 20056.


Click here for more info on New Policy PAC and Donna Edwards Fundraiser
.


****************


INTERVIEW

Prior to my visit to the area, Christian Avard of Vermont's Deerfield Valley News and iBrattleboro.com conducted the following interview with me. It was published on PULSE! (full version) and the Huffington Post (abridged version).

The full interview is pasted below…


Anna Baltzer: Palestinians "come second" at peace talks


Tell me about your experience on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Getting on mainstream television shows and talking about Palestine is incredibly difficult. What made that episode a reality and did your appearance on The Daily Show indicate that the mainstream media is beginning to explore the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine?


Someone with a contact at the show found my DVD transformative and sent in a press release for Mustafa Barghouti and me to be on. Barghouti was accepted immediately, and eventually they invited me too because I am Jewish and they thought therefore I would be a moderating influence. I don't believe it was their intention to have a Jewish Palestinian rights activist on and much of what I said of substance was cut out of the aired version, but they put the full version online and it went viral. I do believe that Stewart is sympathetic to the cause. I don't think it indicates a substantial shift in mainstream media trends, but given that I don't watch much mainstream media, I could be wrong! There seems to me a bit more openness than before to criticize Israel, thanks in part to Israeli atrocities that are growing too difficult to ignore.


How much of an impact did the atrocities of Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara flotilla have in opening people's eyes to the Israeli occupation of Palestine?


The impact has been huge. The "Israel is innocent and virtuous" narrative is no longer sustainable given these types of crimes, so in its place has been a propaganda campaign to convey how "complex" the issue is. "Yes," the narrative goes, "Israel sometimes does bad things, but it's just a cycle of violence and it's very complicated. We are working on it and you mustn't pressure us." This in some ways is more insidious than the previous narrative because it gives the illusion of balance where there is none and removes Israel's responsibility as the occupier.


Calling it "complex" is a way of obscuring the reality and avoiding responsibility. Jewish emotions surrounding Zionism are complicated; the task of both sides healing in the future from years of conflict is complicated; but the injustice of Palestinians being oppressed and denied their fundamental human rights simply because of their ethnicity and religion is not complicated. The propaganda campaign is not working. Americans are increasingly open to the idea that Israel may not be the righteous, peace-seeking country they thought it was. When I tell people I'm a Palestinian human rights advocate, they express more interest and less alarm than they used to. The shift was already happening before 2008 but has accelerated exponentially since Operation Cast Lead and the Freedom Flotilla attacks. Israeli society is well aware of this shift, and there is a lot of internal discussion and hysteria about the way the Flotilla attacks reflected badly on Israel.


People think that Israelis don't care about the way the world perceives them, but that's not true. They care about the legitimacy of their country, their academia, their science, their economy, and their culture. This is why the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is so powerful. It's their weak spot–the kind of pressure that works, in contrast to the historic futility of vapid diplomatic efforts. By the way, there is little internal Israeli discussion within about the legitimacy of the attacks on the flotilla. The morality of the killings of nine Turks is not questioned. The discussion is tactical–how much can they get away with and shouldn't they have known better? Apparently their calculus is off because they seem to make one atrocious PR blunder over another, always at the Palestinians' (and occasionally their supporters') expense.


You have been traveling to Israel-Palestine for years now. Based on your experience and observations, what are the biggest myths about the occupation? What are the myths and what have you learned?


There are too many myths to name, but many fall into a few categories:

Myth 1: "This is an age-old conflict based on religion and mutual hatred." This is a conflict about land and human rights, not about religion. Prior to the Zionist movement, Jews were better treated in the Arab world than they were in much of the Christian West. There is nothing inherently incompatible about Jews, Muslims, and Christians, but with the introduction of the Zionist movement seeking to–and eventually succeeding to–annex Palestine for European Jews and one segment of the indigenous population while excluding and discriminating against the other segments of the population, you saw the emergence of violence. Israel was created and is maintained at the expense of Muslims and Christians in the area, who are denied their land and their human rights simply because they are not Jewish. This ongoing discriminatory system perpetuates the conflict today and until it is addressed we can expect no just or enduring peace.


Myth 2: "The occupation may be ugly, but it's for security" (note the switch from the previous narrative that "there is no occupation").
The majority of the institutions of Israel's occupation simply cannot be justified by security. Israel pays its citizens to move from Israel to the West Bank to live amidst the so-called "enemy"–does that make them safer? Israel has never declared its own borders, rather it expands them onto more and more of someone else's land–does that make Israel safer? Israel denies Palestinians sufficient water from their own water sources–Does that make Israelis safer? Although the narrative of "security" as motivation is accepted without question in mainstream media, it simply doesn't make sense when you look at the situation on the ground. Cutting Palestinians off from their families, schools, hospitals, and livelihoods will never make Israelis safer. If Israel is serious about ending Palestinian violence, it must acknowledge the roots of that violence.


Myth 3: "Israel has no partner for peace."
On the contrary, Palestinians have no partner for peace. No Israeli offer has ever come close to fulfilling Palestinian human rights. Camp David II in 2000, often referred to as former prime minister Ehud Barak's "Generous Offer," would have annexed 10% of the West Bank into Israel, including some of most fertile and water rich areas, home to 80,000 Palestinians. The 10% was spread around the West Bank, separating the "future Palestinian state" into a nonviable archipelago of isolated cantons, separating Palestinians from their land and each other. Finally, the proposal maintained Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem (and some control by Palestinians under that sovereignty) and ignored the human rights of the Palestinian refugees, who represent the vast majority of the Palestinian population.

Offers by Palestinians and the Arab world including significant compromises have been consistently rebuffed by Israel:

In the 1970s, the PLO endorsed a comprehensive peace plan with Israel in exchange for its full withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel rejected the offer.

In 2002, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, along with 21 other members of the Arab League, proposed not only peace but normal relations and regional integration with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation and a "just solution" to the issue of refugees. Israel rejected the offer. The Arab Peace Initiative was reiterated in 2007 and again refused.

Hamas has repeatedly offered a 30-year ceasefire with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation. Israel has dismissed this possibility and refused to talk to the elected Palestinian government on grounds that it refuses to renounce violence, recognize previous agreements, and recognize the existence of another people's state in historic Palestine. Interestingly, Israel is guilty of all three of the very things for which it faults Hamas.


Myth 4: "An end to the 1967 occupation would be an end to the injustice." This one is more prevalent in the peace and justice community. While an end to the occupation is a condition for peace, it is only one part of restoring Palestinian human rights. The rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel also need to be addressed. What does it mean to be a citizen of a state that does not represent you, and systematically discriminates against you? (Mossawa is a good source for information about discrimination of Palestinians inside the Green Line.)

Moreover, the vast majority of Palestinians are families of refugees from 1948, who were forced to leave their homes in order to create a Jewish majority in a land where most people were Christian and Muslim. Still today, I, as a Jewish American, could go and live on land that was stolen from Palestinians and is now reserved exclusively for Jews. Meanwhile, a Palestinian born on that same land is forbidden simply because of his or her ethnic and religious background. An end to the occupation and a return to the 1967 borders solves the immediate problem of many (but not all) of the 4 million Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but it does not address the primary grievance of the vast majority of Palestinians, namely that they have been exiled from Palestine and can't go back because they are not Jews. Their right to come home and live at peace with their neighbors is reaffirmed year after year in the United Nations; it is not debatable, it's a right that belongs to all refugees, no matter what color their skin is.


The Israeli boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement has been growing on college campuses across the country. How much traction is this movement gaining in terms of pressuring the Israeli government and its policies?


A lot. The successes are too numerous to name, but the Interfaith Peace Initiative compiled a comprehensive list of global actions to date, filling 88 pages. The number of actions has doubled since the Flotilla attacks. They include divestment by universities, churches, unions, and governmental institutions. Musicians and sports teams have refused to play in Israel. The 2005 Palestinian-led call has been endorsed by some Israeli and Jewish groups, among hundreds of others. In five years, the BDS movement against Apartheid Israel has achieved more successes than the BDS movement against Apartheid South Africa had in its first twenty years of existence. The success of these campaigns is evidenced in the mass hysteria presented in Israeli newspapers. This is seen as a great threat to the status quo, which is the goal. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." Privilege is given up only when it comes at a cost.


Many people today are referring to Israel as an apartheid state. Do you agree with this characterization and what evidence have you seen that indicates that apartheid exists in Israel?


The 1973 UN International Convention on Apartheid defines the crime of apartheid as any systematic oppression, segregation, and discrimination to maintain domination by one racial group—`demographic group,' in Israeli parlance—over another, as through denial of basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, education, movement, and nationality; torture or inhuman treatment; arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment; and "any measures designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos,… the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group… or to members thereof."


The definition clearly cites crimes perpetrated by Israel both in the 1967 Occupied Territories—where the situation goes so much further that the Archbishop Desmond Tutu himself maintains that the occupation is worse than apartheid—and within the state of Israel itself. 1948 Palestinians (the descendants of the small number of Palestinians who remained in 1948 in what became Israel), aka "Palestinian citizens of Israel" (or "Israeli Arabs," which many see as an offensive title that ignores their Palestinian national and historic identity), are subject to countless discriminatory laws that deny them many of the same human rights and freedoms as their counterparts in the 1967 Occupied Territories. Although Israel calls itself a "democracy," it does not hide its determination to maintain its demographic domination of Jews over non-Jews. 1948 Palestinians are referred to as the "demographic bomb" in reference to their increasing percentage of the population due to reproduction and the emigration of many Jewish Israelis. Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman openly advocates the forced transfer of 1948 Palestinians out of Israel.


Although 1948 Palestinians are citizens of Israel, they are not "nationals," because Israel is not the state of its citizens but rather the state of the Jewish people. Palestinians were denied the right to work in dozens of jobs reserved for Israelis who have served in the Army (from which Palestinians are excluded). Additionally, 93% of the land in Israel is managed by the Israeli Lands Administration, an extension of the Jewish National Fund, rendering it either very difficult or outright impossible for non-Jews to move to. Most of this land was taken from Palestinians in 1948.


These are just a few examples of apartheid within Israel. The most comprehensive compilation I've seen documenting these cases and many more is Jonathan Cook's article, "The Unwanted Who Stayed," published by Americans for Middle East Understanding.


There is a phenomenal booklet compiled by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA summarizing a legal study by the Human Sciences Research Center of South Africa. It's called "Is Israel an Apartheid State?" and in 7.5 pages systematically goes through seemingly every one of Israel's laws that discriminate against Palestinians in the 1967 Occupied Territories as fits the crime of Apartheid (it acknowledges its limitations of not having pursued the same exploration within Israel—yet). I read examples I'd never even known about. It's very shocking and it's a great organizing tool to draw parallels compelling communities that took the step of divesting from Apartheid South Africa to do the same against Apartheid Israel today.


Peace talks are taking place as we speak in Washington DC. What aspects of these negotiations are people not seeing in the media? What kinds of context and/or issues are getting buried from stenography reporting that we're used to seeing?


One over-arching issue of years of failed US-brokered Middle East "peace-talks" is that the security and ethno-nationalist Jewish character of Israel is considered the first priority, and Palestinian human rights come second. The trouble is, Israel cannot exist as a state only of the Jewish people (as opposed to Israel being the state of the Jewish people and the indigenous population) without the denial of Palestinian rights (because the minute you give Palestinians the same rights as Jews, Israel stands to lose its Jewish majority). So when Prime Minister Netanyahu says "Both sides need to make significant compromises," he is talking about compromising Palestinian human rights. He's saying, "Look, you can have some human rights, but you will have to give up others." But human rights are non-negotiable. They are not up for debate—this is very clear in international law. The basis for peace-talks must be human rights, equality, self-determination, and security for everyone involved.


Because Hamas has refused to pre-conditions that de facto already sign away certain Palestinian rights, Palestinians have been denied representation by their democratically-elected leaders. And while Netanyahu expects Palestinians to compromise their most fundamental rights, he has shown no willingness to compromise on even the most basic issue of freezing settlement construction. Palestinians have again been forced into a situation of compromising with nothing in return. This imbalance is no surprise; a prisoner negotiating with his prison guard cannot expect a fair outcome. Until we see a solution based on justice rather than the normalization of injustice, we will not see a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine.


Despite the on-going Israeli-Palestine conflict, what have you seen or experienced that is positive and does not get mentioned?


The Palestinian-led liberation movement growing on the ground is usually ignored by US mainstream media. Hundreds of Palestinians march every week in protest of Israeli atrocities, often joined by Israeli and international solidarity activists. I am very inspired by the resilience of Palestinians on the ground in the face of tremendous oppression. The BDS movement is also underreported, to put it mildly, but together with Palestinian resistance on the ground will forge, I believe, the path to justice. I am also consistently surprised by the willingness of Palestinians who advocate a democratic one-state solution to live alongside their oppressors once the injustice ends. The one-state solution is always presented as a great compromise for Israel, but it is an extraordinary compromise for Palestinians. It provides a genuine model for peaceful coexistence in the future, which gives me hope.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Announcements & New Article, "Indigenous Resistance: from Colombia to Palestine

Dear friends,

I'm so sorry I've been out of touch for so long! I have so much to share with you all.

My most recent article is below the following announcements. It's called "Indigenous resistance: from Colombia to Palestine," the first in a series reflecting on my summer trip to Colombia with a delegation on indigenous movements and human rights.

But first, 5 announcements!…


1. Opportunities to go to Palestine:

* January delegation to Palestine (with two amazing friends of mine facilitating!) through Americans Jews for a Just Peace (open to non-Jews of course). Applications due soon—Oct 1st! Applications submitted later will be considered only if there is still room. More info here.

* November Olive Harvest delegation to Palestine with Interfaith Peace-Builders (people from all backgrounds, religious or not, are welcome to apply). Partiicpating in the harvest is a wonderful way to learn about Palestinians and Palestine. More info here. Delegations next year are listed here.


2. UN Flotilla Investigation finds Israel guilty of violating international law, "brutal and disproportionate" violence, and "willful killing." Full report here.


3. Plans for a US Boat to Gaza are in full force. Donations are desperately needed! Please visit UStoGaza.org to learn more and contribute.


4. The One Nation March is a huge action in Washington DC coming up on October 2nd. Learn more. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has materials for the protests and support for organizing your own community to attend this historic march and protest US $30 billion in military aid to Israel.


5. Finally, I will be touring internationally October 18th – November 23rd! Stops in:

* AUSTRALIA: Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, and elsewhere

* NEW ZEALAND: Wellington and Aukland

* JAPAN: Tokyo, Gumna, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, and elsewhere

The Australia tour will end at the first National Australian BDS Conference in Melbourne! View Speakers, Conference Agenda, and more here.


Check my online schedule for updates on the above and other upcoming events.


As promised, here's my most recent article, originally published on Electronic Intifada


************ Available for re-publication ************


Indigenous resistance: from Colombia to Palestine

By Anna Baltzer

(Click here for corresponding photographs.)



"They only see our water, our land, our trees. They don't care about us. They want the land -- without the people on it."

These words are not of a Palestinian farmer but of Justo Conda, governor of Lopez Adentro Indigenous Reserve in southwestern Colombia, whose community was repeatedly threatened with displacement under former president Alvaro Uribe Velez. Uribe, recently appointed by the United Nations to investigate Israel's fatal attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, has a notoriously horrific track record on human rights. Less explored are the clear parallels between his government's mistreatment of indigenous peoples of Colombia and Israel's abuses of the indigenous people of Palestine.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Colombia has one of the largest populations of internally displaced people in the world, numbering as many as 4.9 million. According to the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement more than 286,000 Colombians were uprooted from their land in 2009 alone. Approximately ten percent of the Colombian population has suffered forced displacement, many of them indigenous communities, afro-Colombian descendants of former slaves, and campesinos (farmers).

Like Israel, Colombia is the largest recipient of US military aid in its hemisphere. Six billion US tax-dollars over the past ten years have placed Colombia third in the world for US military assistance, after Israel and Egypt. Armed with US weapons and political backing, Uribe's government and other armed actors have forced out millions through extrajudicial assassinations and terror tactics, clearing the way for the exploitation of natural resources by the government and multinational companies. Always in the name of security and the "War on Terror," Colombian soldiers have burned villages, ransacked homes and destroyed the livelihoods of communities who have taken the radical decision of staying on their own land.

For many indigenous communities, this is not the first time they've been uprooted. With the Spanish invasion five hundred years ago and the founding of Colombia three hundred years later, indigenous peoples have been repeatedly forced to flee their fertile valleys rich with water and minerals, moving further and further into the Andes mountain ranges where the climate is harsher and the land less arable. Now the government wants to take even that land, leaving the communities trapped -- community members say if they head higher into the mountains they may be threatened by guerillas who are fighting to maintain control of those areas, while going down into the valleys they will face aggression from paramilitaries, corporations and the army.

There is something eerily familiar about this violent and calculated expulsion and it is no surprise that Israel has now become Colombia's number one supplier of weapons, advisor on military organization and intelligence-gathering and model for "fighting terror" ("Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia," Ynet, 10 August 2007, as cited in "Uribe's appointment to flotilla probe guarantees it's failure," Jose Antonio Gutierrez and David Landy, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010). But like the Palestinians, the people of Colombia are not prepared to abandon their homes and livelihoods without a struggle. Almost twenty years ago, up against a military armed to the teeth, the indigenous communities of southwestern Colombia developed their own form of protection: La Guarda Indigena (The Indigenous Guard).


Standing before the flag of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca in the indigenous reserve of Lopez, Governor Conda explained:

"The Colombian government does not represent us, so we have constructed our own system of security. In each indigenous community, individuals are selected to serve for one year defending our land. Each indigenous guard receives a staff, passed down by its previous user, which represents the authority and responsibility of the position. Guards carry their ancestral staffs everywhere they go. It is received voluntarily; nobody is paid to defend their people. And although everyone in our communities would fight for our freedom, the staffs indicate those of us who have been physically and psychologically prepared during the year to defend our people and our land."

Governor Conda added:

"In the face of a highly-militarized state that consistently denies us our basic rights, the indigenous guard is the only defense we can exercise. We have declared ourselves neutral, allied with neither the guerillas nor the army. We are offering a peaceful solution based on an end to colonization and respect for life and culture. We have no weapons or guns. We don't need weapons or guns to exercise control. Our guards stand outside our gates, armed only with their colorful staff -- a symbol of our strength and our values. And although we have received many threats, many authorities have also come to respect the indigenous guard."

Conda explained that at the end of each guard's term, he or she chooses a successor and the authority and responsibility rotates. Next to Conda, the current community guards stood up one by one, a diverse group of men and women; young and old; a pregnant woman; a village elder. They held the staffs, each meant to reach as high as its carrier's heart.

Colombia's indigenous communities have a long history of popular resistance. In the 1920s, tribes collectively boycotted taxes imposed by the government on indigenous people to live and work on their own land. Since then, councils have been formed to decide how to recuperate territory and resist expulsion. Although their presence preceded European colonization, indigenous Colombians are often treated as foreigners and invaders.

The response to organized indigenous resistance to displacement has been brutal. Last year alone, four members of the small Lopez Adentro community alone were assassinated ("The Struggle for Survival and Dignity: Human Rights Abuses Against Indigenous Peoples in Colombia," Amnesty International, 23 January 2010 [PDF]). According to human rights advocate Felix Posada, 1,400 indigenous persons were assassinated during Uribe's eight-year tenure, representing one percent of Colombia's total indigenous population. Colombia has the highest rate of indigenous killings in Latin America, numbering 114 last year, reported Posada behind bulletproof doors in his office in downtown Bogota.

Right-wing paramilitary groups are suspected in many of the incidents, despite the Uribe administration's claim of their demobilization in 2006 ("Colombian Paramilitaries' Successors Called a Threat," Simon Romero, The New York Times, 3 February 2010). The "disarmament" was widely seen as a publicity stunt in which individuals dressed up as militants handed over their guns in photo-ops in exchange for a handsome reward. Countless cases have confirmed collaboration between the Colombian army and the paramilitaries (renamed "organized delinquents" these days), the latter often doing the dirty work in exchange for power and immunity.

In October of 2008, following direct action by the Indigenous and Popular Minga (Community Mobilization) of La Maria in Piendamo, soldiers entered the municipality and vandalized cars, forced inhabitants out of their homes with tear gas, stripped men in front of their neighbors and set fire to residents' huts, beds, bicycles and even children's dolls (Video: "La Maria Piendamo," 22 October 2008). A mass march from La Maria was met with soldiers and helicopters, leading to a stand-off of stones, sling-shots and ancestral staffs versus the army's tear gas and live ammunition (Video: "Minga de la Maria Piendamo," 22 October 2008). If Uribe's administration's chosen response to wooden, ancestral wooden staffs was bullets, what could he possibly say to Israel's killing of nine Turks who may have been carrying chair legs?

The gravest threat of all faced by Colombia's indigenous population is cultural destruction and extinction. Of Colombia's 102 indigenous tribes, 32 percent are in danger of disappearance. Eighteen tribes have fewer than two hundred persons remaining. One of the most important forms of resistance for many communities has been the preservation of language, cultural values and traditions.

Until recently, the state-imposed educational system mandated schooling in Spanish, but today native languages are taught in classrooms on the reserves. The people have won other victories along the way as far back as 1991 when the new constitution finally recognized the diverse ethnic identities of the Colombian people and their rights to preserve their land and culture. But too often the constitution and laws are ignored in favor of other interests, notably expanding control over natural resources.

Unwilling to continue waiting after twenty years of unkept promises, the indigenous communities of the Cauca and Valle de Cauca regions of southwest Colombia have joined together on a common platform of four priorities: unity, land, culture and autonomy. The vision is a complete one, with freedom conditional on the fulfillment of each element. Another member of the Lopez Adentro community explained: "Peace is not simply an end to war. Peace will come when indigenous rights to land, culture and self-determination are respected. There can be no peace through the destruction or submission of the indigenous population."

This definition of true peace is a timely one as Israel and the illegitimate Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas resume negotiations while ignoring the fundamental requirements of justice for the Palestinian people, including their respective rights to land, culture and self-determination.

It is difficult to imagine a leader as enthusiastic about Israel's repression tactics as Uribe being a fair judge as to the legality of Israel's attacks on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. His former administration's close relationship to the Jewish state alone precludes him as an impartial investigator. And although there are notable differences between the situations in Colombia and Palestine, the likeness of the Colombian and Israeli governments' responses to indigenous resistance is unmistakable. It would be not only out of character but downright hypocritical for Uribe to hold Israel accountable for the same type of behavior that characterized his own presidency.

Meanwhile, the sumoud and resilience of the indigenous Colombian people persists. Governor Conda continued, "Just as we have for five hundred years, we will continue to struggle and move forward. In fact, we are ready to work harder than ever."



This article was originally published on Electronic Intifada.



Click here for photographs related to the article.



Spanish translation available here.



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