Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Improved CJME web site helps members speak out for Mideast peace

In January 2009 for three agonizing weeks, many of you in the KC area watched the massive slaughter of hundreds of defenseless Palestinians by a US-funded Israeli military. We did what we could to call attention to the massacre – participated in two large protests in January, two successful fundraisers bringing in over $100,000 for humanitarian relief, wrote letters, signed petitions, and visited with US congressional representatives. The destruction stopped in January 2009 yet the blockade continues today.

In response to the growing urgency to focus attention on the Palestinian’s struggle for self-determination and sovereignty, CJME has elected to develop an improved web site for area residents to discuss and organize activities calling for an end to the occupation.

The current site has served its purpose of acting as an electronic brochure and events calendar, but the new site will add more resources – photos, podcasts, plus aggregate all the past activities and events of CJME. Most importantly, the site will allow people to directly contribute to the site. Here’s a link to the current CJME web site – http://www.cjme.org/.

We believe KC area and regional residents would benefit from this web site to help share opinion and organize activities. Sharing information will enhance and spread the dialog on this most crucial issue.

Citizens for Justice in the Middle East invites you visit the web site again and look for the following features:
  • A cleaner look to make it easier to navigate than the old
  • Allows site visitors to comment on articles and stories
  • Provides an enhanced Action Alerts and Campaigns section, allowing individuals to get more involved in influencing local legislators and media outlets
  • Allows group members to contribute articles, stories, photos, blog posts, and calendar events
  • Defines new content such as photos, videos, and audio of local events and programs
  • Integrates CJME social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, and blog sites
The new web site was designed and built using donated labor on the Drupal open-source content management system.


Matt Quinn

Monday, November 9, 2009

A visit to occupied Palestine - "Your destiny is not your own"


Rev. Cindy Howard, an Episcopalian priest serving with St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Lee's Summit, Missouri, spoke November 7 about her meetings with a broad spectrum of Palestinian and Israeli groups affected by the Mideast crisis. She traveled with Interfaith Peace Builders in July and during her presentation described aspects of enduring "a stifling occupation." [photo: Billi Jo Larmore]

The purpose of her participation in the delegation was to see the reality on the ground, visit with ordinary Palestinians and Israeli, and, finally, to contribute to a growing peace movement. This was not Rev. Howard’s first travel experience to a conflict zone. In September the Lee's Summit Journal reported on Rev. Howard's trip: “I was a teacher for many years and I’ve taught in Armenia and Bosnia, so going into a conflict zone wasn’t a new thing to me,” she said. “I always think that travel is a life changing experience and I knew a trip like this wouldn’t come along very often.” [1]

During her presentation at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City she framed several questions on the Israel-Palestine crisis. "What is it like to live in a refugee camp?" set up her description of an overnight stay at the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, where she spoke with the third generation of people that lived in the camp and the difficulty they experience separated from their villages. She described the common experience of spending hours to travel short distances cut off by the Israeli separation wall that splits Bethlehem in two. Despite her short-term stay she was able to understand the strict constraints and dehumanizing experience living under Israeli occupation, leaving her to reflect how "your destiny is not your own."

"What does it mean to live in an occupied territory?" For Cindy’s church parishioners these questions allowed her to discuss the challenges that Palestinians face daily on their way to work, school, or business. During the delegation’s visit to Bi’lin, she stayed with a family forced to separate from the male household head because of constant threat of arrest due to his leadership in the non-violent resistance to the Israeli separation wall. Bi’lin represents both the strong example of the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement, as well as the focus of severe repression by Israeli forces.

The Interfaith Peace Builder delegation also traveled to Sderot, Israel on the border with Gaza. The group heard from Naomi Zion, an Israeli woman with a Sderot-based peace group, who wrote her thoughts about the rocket attacks in Sderot, as well as the massive Israeli attacks on Gaza. [2]

Rev. Howard also described a common incident experienced by the delegation. A delegation member of Canadian-Palestinian descent was held for six hours. During this time Israeli customs officials repeatedly asked questions about her family.

A young Palestinian-American girl attending the November 7 talk described her family’s humiliating experience being detained for 6 1/2 hours traveling to the West Bank in the summer of 2009: “they [the Israelis] don’t want us to come back.” Her father described how people had lost their lives seeking treatment for common ailments like diabetes and delivering babies while waiting to cross checkpoints or the separation fence. He “commended you [Rev. Howard] for what you have done” by traveling to the Mideast.

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[1] “A life changing experience: Local priest travels to Israel, Palestine,” Lee's Summit Journal, http://www.lsjournal.com/100/story/36005.html

[2] “A Sderot Woman Speaks out Against Gaza Operation,” Daily Kos, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/1/10/11281/4229/984/682450

Friday, November 6, 2009

Palestinian-American discovered Gaza trip "would change his life"


Report Back from Viva Palestina was a "persuasive argument" for more support
Two Palestinian-Americans, Mohamed El-Housiny and Thaer Ahmad, gave emotional accounts of their participation in the "Viva Palestina" delegation to Gaza in July 2009 to a packed auditorium at the University of Missouri--Kansas City on Thursday, November 5. The talk sponsored by the UMKC Muslim Student Association also featured a brief presentation by Rev. Cindy Howard, who participated in an Interfaith Peace Builders delegation to Palestine and Israel in August. Rev. Howard discussed meeting with representatives from a broad spectrum of Israeli and Palestinian society, including visits to the Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem and Bi'lin, the site in the West Bank famous for weekly protests against the building of the wall deep inside Palestinian territory.

At age three, one of the event speakers, Mohamed El-Housiny, recalled the unforgettable scene watching his grandfather get thrown to the ground by Israeli forces in Gaza. He then mentioned his eyes were open anew following the terrible massacre of Palestinians this past January. He gave an incredibly moving eyewitness account of the scenes of devastation in Gaza, as well as sharing stories told by victimes of the brutal attacks.

How bad is it in Gaza? While the stories retold by Mohamed and Thaer gave a strong personal message, statistics tell a different story of the dire situation. 1300 Palestinians were killed including 400 children, thousands wounded, thousands of homes were destroyed, as were a great number of schools, businesses, hospitals, and mosques. 40,000 Palestinians are still homeless. 13 Israelis were killed. The guest speakers reported that all aid has to go through Israel according to the 2005 Gaza disengagement plan. The recent Israeli attacks caused $4 billion damage in 22 days, which amounts to three times the annual income of Gaza. The UN estimates the need to deliver supplies from 80-90 vehicles per day, yet Israel only allows 5-15 vehicles in per day. The siege of Gaza has reduced the fishing zone from 15 miles offshore to only 3 miles. Israel profits from the transfer and storage of supplies with much of the financing going back to fund the occupation.

Thaer grew up in the West Bank and thought he would only be an observer on the Viva Palestina delegation, but after his first interaction with the Egyptian government he "knew it would change his life." The Egyptian government was reluctant to allow the Viva Palestina vehicle convoy to pass through to Gaza, holding the delegation for thirteen hours at the border. He commented on the strength of the Palestinian spirit to maintain their livelihood despite the crushing siege. He recalled three young girls telling their story, noting one strong-minded ten-year old girl demand to know "what did these girls [her friends] do to deserve this." One of the girls lost 26 family members during the attacks.

He saw the damage to schools and remembered hearing how schools were used as a safe haven from the attacks. He found it difficult to explain how ruthless the attacks were to target schools with civilians hiding inside.

During the question and answer period of the event, one audience member asked how Palestinians in Gaza are living in the devastation. Thaer said he saw storekeepers open their stories and sweep sidewalks despite a lack of customers. He was amazed to see how they found resolve to endure the death and destruction. "The fact that they get up in the morning each day -- that's resistance!," remarked Thaer.

Mohamed reported another humanitarian aid convoy led by Viva Palestina will commence December 5 in London before continuing through Europe, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt before traveling to Gaza. Viva Palestina convoy organizers are seeking individuals to participate in the convoy. See http://www.vivapalestina-us.org for details.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

$103,000 pledged to Palestinian relief; largest event of its type in Kansas or Missouri -- ever

FUNDRAISER WAS HUGELY SUCCESSFUL!

Participants at the July 2 “Viva Palestina” fundraising event pledged $103,000 for medical relief for Palestinians in Gaza. This generous sum is the largest grassroots fundraising effort for Palestinians in Kansas or Missouri – ever.

Mr. George Galloway, British member of parliament, gave a much-anticipated speech to a capacity crowd of 300 at the Overland Park Marriott. Credit for the large amount raised goes to Galloway for his convincing appeal for direct relief to Palestinians in Gaza. Members of Kansas City’s Muslim and Arab-American communities, as well as many other residents responded generously.

The amount raised will ensure that six trucks representing Kansas and Missouri, will be purchased in Egypt and driven to Gaza, joining with hundreds of other relief vehicles donated by generous Americans from all across the United States. Three Kansas City audience members will journey to Egypt to drive the vehicles in a convoy flying US flags and state and organizational banners to begin a two-week stay in Gaza. Galloway mentioned that his three-month tour of US cities raised $2 million.

One participant “found the event informative and practical, the tone was as much of a call to action as it was a personal, emotional reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Representatives of several organizations supported the appeal for funds, including American Friends Service Committee—KC, Peaceworks, Citizens for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land (Lee’s Summit, MO), Seventh Generation Indigenous Visionaries (Haskell student group traveling to Palestine on August 1), American Muslims for Palestine, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, and MAS Freedom.

After brief presentations by local Kansas City area Palestinian-American residents Mohammed Atwa and Dr. Mohamed Ouda, Galloway outlined his support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

In 1975 as a 20-year old young man he first learned of the Palestinian catastrophe – the dispossession of 750,000 from their land in 1948. In 1977 he lived for a year with Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon.

‘Dark Days’ for Palestinians

Recalling the “dark days” of the massacre of thousands of refugee women and children at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982 following the devastation of Beirut by invading Israeli forces, he suggested the Israeli attacks in December 2008/January 2009 cast an even darker pall over the Palestinian future.

By preventing Palestinians from departing the small Gaza Strip, he described the recent attacks as “shooting fish in a barrel.” In past massacres, news crews did not arrive until after the deaths and destruction. However, Galloway emphasized that alternative news sources brought the ghastly destruction into homes and to computer screens in real-time. Al Jazeera, PressTV, YouTube and other Internet sites showed horrific human injuries and infrastructure damage.

Galloway said tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed during the 22-day Israeli military campaign. A United Nations report found “52,400 families had homes that were demolished or damaged. Due to ongoing restrictions on the entry of essential construction materials, reconstruction or major repairs have yet to take place.” [1]

If conditions were not bad enough, Galloway stressed “not a single brick, bag of cement, hammer or nails” had been allowed into Gaza to rebuild homes, hospitals, mosques, or schools. “Some people are living in the ruins of their houses,” he added.

Child malnutrition levels and unemployment have increased, leaving the protection of Palestinians to international agencies like the United Nations. Galloway underscored that it was the “UN’s responsibility to feed Palestinians but it was being denied” from providing supplies.

Galloway recalled several well-documented horrific incidents like the one where a 3-year old girl was left undiscovered for days after the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Zatoun. Another where a ten-year old girl lost all seven family members. During Galloway’s visit to Gaza with the British convoy the girl asked him “where is this Arab world they tell us about in school?” referring to the lack of support after the 22 days of attacks.

Bold move to break the Israeli (and Arab) siege of Gaza

Galloway announced on January 10, 2009 at a massive rally in Britain that he would organize a convoy to Gaza to provide assistance, to break the siege. On February 14 the convoy left Britain with 100 vehicles to drive through Europe and North Africa.

He revealed the popular support for the convoy as it drove through Europe, Morocco, Tunusia, Algeria, Libya, then Egypt – despite sometimes cold reception from Arab government officials. He described how 100 vehicles were added to the convoy in Libya, “the only country where the people and government supported” the relief convoy. The now two-mile long convoy of vehicles loaded with medical supplies eventually drove from Egypt to Gaza on March 9.

Following an approach similar to the British convoy, Galloway announced news in April 2009 of the fundraising effort for a US convoy departing on July 4 – tomorrow.. All who participated in the July 2 fundraising event in Overland Park are saluted for their generosity. You demonstrate not only the good will of the American people, but also the funds needed to lift the dark days and break the siege.

We in Kansas City are proud to be part of George Galloway's historic mission.

Matt Quinn
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East

Andrea Whitmore
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East

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[1] “Protection of Civilians,” 3-6 June 2009, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, occupied Palestinian territory, [http://unispal.un.org/pdfs/WBN312.pdf]


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> THERE’S STILL TIME TO SUPPORT VIVA PALESTINA. Send a CHECK MADE PAYABLE to: “Viva Palestina USA – IFCO”

Viva Palestina USA – IFCO
47 West Polk Street
Suite 100 – 403
Chicago, IL 60605-2085

IFCO stands for Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace. Note: IFCO will send your receipt of donation for your records at the end of 2009 so please make sure your correct contact information is included in your donation!

“The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, which has been working for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967, is serving as fiscal sponsor for Viva Palestina USA. Your donation to Viva Palestina - IFCO is fully tax deductible under IFCO’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.”
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

“Viva Palestina” fundraiser will provide a lively and timely update on Gaza humanitarian relief efforts

Event organizers announce guest speakers

UPDATE ON CONDITIONS IN GAZA -

In December 2008, Israel began a military campaign that caused over 5300 Palestinian deaths or injuries, nearly half of the casualties were women and children. Thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians. 35,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes. 4000 Palestinian homes were destroyed in the 22 days of attacks. Mona El-Farra, a Palestinian physician and human rights/women’s rights activist, wrote one week after the attacks that “medical staff and people still shell-shocked although cars and people on the streets again but all people have the memories of the events of 20 days bombardment, charred bodies and probably no family is intact.”


The Israeli blockade of Gaza continues today. The stranglehold of Gaza threatens the lives, livelihood, and human dignity of 1.4 million people by severely limiting basic goods and supplies from being transported to Gaza. Human Rights Watch calls the blockade “collective punishment of the civilian population.”


In March, in a bold move, Viva Palestina, a British grassroots organization along with George Galloway led a convoy of 100 vehicles to donate $2 million worth of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.


Since that time, UK and EU lawmakers, as well as former US president Jimmy Carter have met with Hamas leaders in Gaza. "I don't believe there is any possibility to have peace between Palestinians and Israel unless Hamas is involved directly, with Fatah,” Carter said.


While we can be optimistic that international partners will alleviate the human catastrophe through aid programs, many basic food and medical supplies remain in severe shortage due to the blockade. Viva Palestina USA will shortcut this blockade by delivering medical supplies to health professionals, charities and grassroots non-governmental organizations working in Gaza.


GUEST SPEAKERS at Viva Palestina Fundraiser in Overland Park, Kansas -

Your generous donation at the Viva Palestina fundraising event on Thursday, July 2 in Overland Park is an important gesture to Palestinians. The following speakers will be part of the event, providing first-hand reports on conditions in Gaza, sharing activities for ending the siege, and, most importantly, raising funds for humanitarian relief.

  • George Galloway is a British Member of Parliament for the London constituency. He was first elected to Parliament for the City of Glasgow in Scotland in 1987. He has been elected five times to the House of Commons and is now one of the more senior members. For fourteen out of fifteen years he was the elected Senior Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party's Foreign Affairs Committee. The exception was the year 1991 during the Gulf War when he was narrowly defeated.

    He is a founder of the Stop the War Coalition UK and is currently its Vice-President. The Stop The War Coalition mobilized two million people to protest against the war on Iraq (the largest demonstration of people in British history).

    In response to the Israeli attacks on Gaza, Galloway organized the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip. Raising over $2 million-worth of humanitarian aid in four weeks, Galloway and hundreds of volunteers launched the convoy comprising approximately 120 vehicles intended for use in the Strip, including a fire engine, 12 ambulances, a boat and trucks full of medicines, tools, clothes, blankets and gifts for children. The 5,000-mile route passed through Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.[Wikipedia]
  • Imam Mahdi Bray is a long time civil and human rights activist currently serving as the Executive Director of MAS Freedom (MASF), the Washington, D.C.-based civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS).
  • Dr. Mohamed Odah is a principal professional engineer and founder of a highly respected environmental engineering firm, based in Overland Park, Kansas. Dr. Odah developed and patented engineering technologies that are implemented worldwide and is a frequent speaker at major national and international engineering conferences. Dr. Odah earned his Ph.D. at UMKC and his M.S. and B.S. in engineering at the University of Kansas.

    Dr. Odah grew up in Gaza and arrived at KU after finishing high school and has been a resident of the Kansas City area for almost 30 years. His family, including his 89 years old mother whom he has not been able to visit in 6 years despite several attempts, continues to reside in Gaza.
  • Mohammed Atwa is a Kansas City resident with Palestinian family members in Gaza. He spoke about his family recently on KKFI-FM 90.1 radio. Mr. Atwa’s mother lives in Gaza, while his brother is a journalist for Ramattan, the only news organization reporting live on events in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli attacks. Mr. Atwa grew up and studied in Gaza, and works with Arava Institute, an environmental education school in Israel. Mr. Atwa spoke at the CJME Gaza fundraiser in January 2009.

Given the Israeli government’s unwillingness to allow humane levels of supplies to pass to Gaza, as well as US government reluctance to provide assistance, the challenge for American citizens is to make financial donations to humanitarian relief through organizations like Viva Palestina USA.


Please give generously!


Citizens for Justice in the Middle East


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For more information on the July 2 fundraising event use any of the following resources.

> WEB: Read more on Kansas City / Viva Palestina Fundraiser

> CALL 816-213-3022 or 816-729-9102

> FACEBOOK: Signup for event on Facebook

> TWITTER: Follow Viva Palestina event

> EVENT FLYER (Adobe PDF, 3.5 MB size) | PRESS RELEASE (HTML)

> MORE on Viva Palestina-US and George Galloway web site

> NOT ATTENDING THE EVENT? Send a CHECK MADE PAYABLE to: Viva Palestina USA – IFCO

MAS Office

10107 W. 105th Street

Overland Park KS 66212

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Viva Palestina Fundraiser on July 2 is opportunity for KC residents to send medical relief to Gaza

British MP George Galloway and Mahdi Bray headline Kansas City Viva Palestina Fundraiser


KANSAS CITY, MO – Several area peace and justice groups – Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom, Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, Citizens for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land (Lee's Summit, MO), American Friends Service Committee-KC, Peaceworks—KC, and American Muslims for Palestine – are proud to join hands for a large fundraiser event for medical relief for Palestinans. The event will feature British Member of Parliament George Galloway (see photo), MAS Freedom executive director and civil rights activist Mahdi Bray, and local speakers.


The fundraising event will be held on Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 6:30 pm at the Overland Park Marriott hotel in Grand Ballroom E located at 10800 Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas. There is no charge to attend the event, but organizers are hoping event participants will give generously.


Hosting a stop on the fundraiser tour of Viva Palestina is a privilege for Kansas City area residents. Other stops on the tour have included San Diego, Chicago, Anaheim, Houston, New York, Chicago, and Denver. The event will give area residents an opportunity to make a direct impact towards breaking the nearly two-year Israeli blockade on Gaza.


Over $4000 was raised at Kansas City event in January to assist the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) to overcome the effects of the 23-day siege of Gaza, which left 1400 Palestinians dead, mostly women and children.


Despite a faltering U.S. economy that has impacted your savings and jobs, many of you generously made a financial donation at the January event. Citizens for Justice in the Middle East and Overland Park fundraiser event organizers are hoping you will come out to the July 2 event, one of the last events before the Viva Palestina convoy departs New York for Egypt on July 4. The convoy will take 500 vehicles and $10 million in humanitarian aid from Egypt to Gaza.


The July 2 event in Overland Park promises to be a lively, sober update of the current events in Gaza, along with an update on relief efforts. Your financial contribution at the event is not only an important step to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, but also acknowledges an Israeli-Palestinian peace resolution is the cornerstone of a Middle East transformation.


Matt Quinn
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East


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For more information on the July 2 fundraising event use any of the following resources.

> WEB: Read more on Kansas City / Viva Palestina Fundraiser

> CALL 816-213-3022 or 816-729-9102

> FACEBOOK: Signup for event on Facebook

> TWITTER: Follow Viva Palestina event

> EVENT FLYER (Adobe PDF, 3.5 MB size) | PRESS RELEASE (HTML)

> MORE on Viva Palestina-US and George Galloway web site

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Gaza Background: While news and reports on the Gaza crisis have disappeared from major news media, there are several reports available that reveal the severe impact of the continuing siege on Palestinians in Gaza. Here are two recent reports.


Health Effects on Children of Gaza Crisis Worsening

The World Health Organization reported that more than 10% of children in Israeli-besieged Gaza ‘chronically malnourished’.

Rising poverty, unemployment and food insecurity in Gaza, compounded by the recent 23-day Israeli offensive, have increased the threat of child malnutrition, say UN agencies, health ministry officials and healthcare NGOs in Gaza.

UN World Health Organization (WHO) officials are concerned by the warning signs, including rising malnutrition indicators - like increased cases of stunting, wasting and underweight children - and continuing high rates of anaemia among children and pregnant women.

Over the past 18 months the agricultural sector has been struggling to cope with an Israeli blockade on imports and exports, causing lower productivity and reducing access to affordable fresh food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


“There was a rise in anaemia amongst children in our centres in 2008 and [this is] continuing,” said Adnan al-Wahaidi, director of Ard al-Insan Benevolent Association in Gaza, the main healthcare NGO supporting an estimated 16,000 undernourished children.


“Women with children who are underweight or wasting have been coming to the centres in greater numbers over the last few months; many of their husbands died during the recent conflict or are unemployed.”


314 children were killed and at least 860 wounded as a result of the Gaza conflict since it began on 27 December. (Al Mezan).


Still today, children and babies are dying in conditions that no human should have to endure, let alone a child. Handicap International estimates that up to 55 percent of people injured (including about 450 children) have sustained injuries that are so severe that without proper rehabilitation, they will likely result in permanent disability and/or death. (OCHA)

< Read more >

Health conditions worsening in Gaza as borders remain closed

The deteriorating health situation in Gaza has been intensified by Israel’s blockade of crossings into the area, the United Nations agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees warned today. – UN agency – 22 May 2009.

According to the agency’s latest health report, some 4,000 medical items per day on average could cross into Gaza before the conflict, whereas only 40 items are currently allowed to be imported daily.

< Read more >

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