Peace-minded people standing together.

“Since I have been here, I have heard from several Israelis and Palestinians working for a just peace, that it will be the international community that will force Israel to abide by international law. International pressure is what turned the tide against apartheid in South Africa. If each of you reading this blog committed to sending a letter or email to your Member of Parliament or better yet, went in and had a conversation with him or her  we might begin to shift the tide  here in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, so that Palestinians like Nofa and Musa might begin to have hope that there will be a home for them not only this winter but for the future as well.” (Debbie, click here)

Debbie, a Canadian Ecumenical Accompanier (EA), now placed in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem offers the above observation following the demolition of a family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah. Debbie and I live in the same part of the world and were both placed in East Jerusalem. I remember well the many peace-minded people, both the Palestinians who live in Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli peace activists who would rally with those Palestinians weekly in Sheikh Jarrah. For the story of another family’s struggle, please see my posting from January 2011 (click here).

One peace-minded Israeli, Adam Keller, blogged this week about intense news arising from both parts of Jerusalem. He concludes by quoting a call for action:

“This night, November 1, there will  take place in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square a rally commemorating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, rallying point for peace-minded Israelis. One of the announcements which landed in my message box states: “We can not forget the reasons why a Prime Minister was assassinated. We will  not settle for a vague condemnation of violence. We must speak out, loud and clear, say that this country must change direction, sign an agreement and put an end to the occupation which erodes and corrupts all that is good in our country.” (Adam Keller, click here)

We, in the international community, have a choice to act with hope. I invite you to follow Debbie’s blog (click here and then the Follow button). I also invite you to continue to seek out alternative news media like Adam Keller’s blog to learn more than what much of mainstream, western media broadcasts. We can stand with peace-minded Israelis and Palestinians to collectively create the international pressure to turn this conflict around.

Ambassador Bercovici – Did you travel freely?

Dear Ambassador Bercovici,

I understand that you have been part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official delegation or small circle of 29 people (all travel expenses paid) in his recent trip to Israel and Palestine (click here). As I look at the list of five groups of people in the larger delegation of 208 people, a recent book, The Armaggedon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada by Marci McDonald, comes to mind. Have you read it? Some of the people on your trip are the type that McDonald discusses in her book. From this Globe & Mail article, the authors note: “Several of the delegates are representatives from evangelical Christian organizations, including the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada, of which Mr. Harper has said he is a member.” The authors also note: “Rev. Bruce Gregersen, a senior adviser on theology for the United Church of Canada who did not participate in the delegation, said it makes sense for the Prime Minister to include a large number of faith-based organizations because faith and politics are closely linked in the region. / But Mr. Gregersen, who has worked on Middle East issues for the United Church, said he was surprised that a broader range of Christian faiths were not included, given that a number of Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic churches have stronger historical connections with Palestinian Christians.”

What ties this delegation together? John Bell notes (here) that Canadian media have noticed the delegation’s size and “questioned the wisdom and motivation of this ample devotion to Israel. Is it calculated interest or a moral drive? Some point out that Harper has much to lose by this stance. The parliamentary electoral gains among the Jewish community, although key to three seats in Toronto, are small in comparison to losses among the Muslim community. Certainly, in Europe, where I live, people are baffled by Canada’s zealous support for Israel” (here).

I am curious, too, about the shift in recent years of Canadian foreign policy to support the Israeli government . How would you respond to these questions (here) prepared by the United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)?

How was your travel? Did you move freely? Did you travel to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank with the Prime Minister? Did you travel by road and go through Qalandiya check point (here)? Or, did you fly? Here is a video (here) created by Neta Efrony, a filmmaker and a member of Machsom Watch (Hebrew for Checkpoints Watch; here). She is an Israeli citizen who objects to the Israeli government’s denial of the freedom of movement of Palestinians (for example, at Qalandiya or Kalandia check point). She asks: Where has compassion gone?


Sherry Ann

A choice: Human security – Dear Ambassador Bercovici…

Have you heard that we have a new Canadian ambassador to Israel? Her name is Vivian Bercovici (more info here). Have you read about some of the concerns about her appointment (for example, click here)? That she is a “staunch supporter of Israel” (click here) and its security policies? Perhaps, Prime Minister Harper and our federal government have made a choice that will serve their interests in support of the government of Israel. I am concerned by this choice. And so, I write to Ms. Bercovici…

“Dear Ambassador Bercovici,

Thank you for your willingness to represent Canada in Israel. Your position has immense responsibility. In your representation of us all, as Canadians, please…please look past the rhetoric of state-oriented definitions of security. Please go to Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and touch that Wall. The Israeli government describes it as a Security Wall (more info). But, the only thing that wall does is separate people. It keeps people apart. It is an apartness wall – an apartheid wall.Israeli Separation Wall dividing East Jerusalem

Israeli Separation Wall dividing East Jerusalem – 10 Dec. 2010 – Photo: Sherry Ann

Please listen to the conversations nearby, for example, those at the Qalandiya Checkpoint where Palestinians are stopped in their tracks. Listen to the questions: What is happening with Canadian foreign policy that it increasingly supports Israeli government interests? Please accept invitations to walk through Qalandiya Checkpoint, rather than be driven in a darkly tinted and ‘secure’ vehicle…

Qalandiya Checkpoint - 10 Feb. 2011 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Qalandiya Checkpoint – 10 Feb. 2011 – Photo: Sherry Ann

In such situations, I hope that you will perceive a choice…to support “human security which exists when people are safe from direct and structural forms of violence [click here] and are able to meet their basic needs and rights. Human security advocates seek to replace or broaden traditional state-based definitions of security that focus on protecting territory or national interests. Human security aims to reduce the threats of disease, poverty, crime, and other factors that lessen the quality of life” (Schirch, 2004, p. 17).

Last year, as you commented on the Israeli government elections, you wrote: “So in the end, it really doesn’t matter to them [the Palestinian Authority] who wins and leads in Israel. There is no willing negotiator on the Palestinian side” (click here). I disagree with your observation, because I know that many Palestinians do wish to co-create a just peace. Jean Zaru who is Palestinian and a Quaker has written: “Both Israelis and Palestinians live in fear. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have peace. Both Israelis and Palestinians yearn for security. Others cannot give us freedom, peace, and security. No government, no army, no wall no matter how long or high will provide for us what can only be supplied by the cultivation of mutuality and trust” (Zaru, 2008, p. 129).

As a Canadian, I ask that you represent me in a way that seeks dialogue with not only Israelis but also Palestinians – both of whom include people who are working hard toward human security and ending the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine. When next you board a plane for Palestine-Israel, please pack two slim volumes in your carry-on bag for reading on your journey:

Jean Zaru’s (2008) Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks, and

Lisa Schirch’s (2004)  The Little Book of Strategic Peacebuilding: A vision and framework for peace with justice.

Thank you,

Sherry Ann”

Standing together – Practising “Active Hope” in Palestine/Israel and where you live

I invite you to read a recent posting by Aaron, an Ecumenical Accompanier with the newly formed Ar-Ram team, located in the north part of occupied East Jerusalem near the location of the Israeli government’s Separation Wall. Click here.

Aaron describes a situation that might seem hopeless: the proposed expansion of an Israeli national park with disregard for the Palestinians who actually live in occupied Nabi Samwil. I had the privilege of visiting this village on 1 March 2011. Please see my posting for additional information and photos (click here).

However, Aaron also describes what happened recently when about 50 people held a demonstration; villagers, Israeli peace activists, and international visitors stood together. Their solidarity surprised the Israeli armed police officers that arrived. When the demonstrators were told to move, the local organizer, Aeed Barakat, spoke for the group. He declared that, “This is our village. We won’t move.” After trying a few more times to disperse the group, the police left.

In keeping with Active Hope (click here), the demonstrators acted amidst a seemingly hopeless situation. As Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012) state, “Active Hope is a practice”. “The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.” (p. 3)

I invite you to share my blog posting and Aaron’s posting, far and wide. In 2014, we can choose to look at our realities, name our hopes, and then… act with intention.

Reference  Macy, Joanna, and Johnstone, Chris. (2012). Active hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Dear Jian Ghomeshi – Please reconsider what this means for peace…

Dear Jian,

Please click here. Please know that your plan to serve as Master of Ceremonies on 6 May 2013 in the Toronto fundraiser by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU) concerns me, as a Canadian and as a supporter of international law. Please decline the invitation to host the fundraiser. Do you know that Hebrew University is partially located on illegally occupied and unilaterally annexed land – that of East Jerusalem? The permanent status of Jerusalem is an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed in the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine (click here). By declining to participate you will help to remind Canadians and the global community that we share a responsibility to re-open conversations for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. For additional information, please see below.

Thank you for considering my letter.

Sherry Ann”

Looking over Old-City rooftops to Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem - 10 Dec. 2010 - Photo: Sherry Ann

Looking over Old-City rooftops to Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem – 10 Dec. 2010 – Photo: Sherry Ann

To send your message to Jian Ghomeshi, click here.

For additional information, see the website of the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (click here and here).

See this webpage (here) for background information regarding the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

See information (here) regarding the growing effort to encourage Morgan Freeman to decline the award to be given to him at the CFHU event.