First blogging, Islamic Charitable society

Well folks, now I have both a cellphone and a blog. No wonder people here think I’m younger than 46.

To those of you who are checking in because of my Markie letters, I won’t promise I’m going to keep as up to date on this blog as I do on Markie. Right now we’re a team of 5 and it really isn’t quite enough to accomplish the work we need to accomplish–so I find I’m falling behind on my CPTnet postings, necessary e-mails and other writing.

The two big foci of the work now are organizing and participating in orphanage overnights and visiting people in Wadi Nasara who are getting stoned almost daily by settlers from Kiryat Arba. I’m posting two releases below that haven’t appeared on CPTnet that explain the situation of both.

The United Nations has cited a report we wrote re: the orphanage situation on page 15 of it’s new report to the General Assembly on the Human Rights situation in Palestine:!OpenDocument

Jean Fallon will be leaving us next week and we’ll be only 4. She’s a Maryknoll sister who served 50 years in Japan. As it happens, the only International Solidarity Movement person in Hebron right now is a Japanese guy named Naoki (but everyone at Wadi Nasara calls him “Nokia.”) His English is very limited, so it’s actually been kind of sweet that the two of them can converse in Japanese–he just visibly relaxes when they’re together. I guess that’s one of the nice things about the work here. I mean, in Japan, Naoki, who looks like he’s in his twenties, would probably never strike up a friendship with an American nun in her seventies, but there you go. I have gotten into long theological and biblical discussions with a 22 year old Dutch Mennonite intern here, Marius, which probably would not have happened, otherwise. I mean, there’s only so many people in the world that enjoy that sort of thing and what are the chances I would meet a Dutch guy who enjoys it anywhere else in the world. I’m also enjoying my time with Kathie Uhler (yes it gets confusing) and Jean. We’re all Mennonites and nuns here now.

So, here are the relevant articles. I’m happy to be sleeping in my own bed tonight instead of the orphanage. Fewer mosquitos.

Why we are protecting orphanages run by an Islamic Charity

Before I left for a CPT assignment in Hebron, a relative asked what I would be doing there. I told him I would probably be spending a lot of time at orphanages the Israeli military was trying to close down. “Why are they trying to close them down?” he asked. “Because they are run by Islamic Charities,” I said. “Oh,” he said, nodding, as though the word “Islamic” were a sound reason to deprive several hundred children of a home.

That reaction, however, did not surprise me, given the way that “Islamic” has become synonymous with “terrorist” in western and Israeli culture. And the Israeli military has used this prejudice to justify closing orphanages, schools and other institutions run by the Islamic Charitable Society (ISC) in Hebron, citing a connection between the institution and Hamas.

Yes, most of the Palestinians in Hebron are conservative Muslims—including the 550 employees of the Islamic Charitable Society, and most conservative Muslims support the Palestinian political party of Hamas, just as most conservative Christians in the United States support the Republican Party. That about sums up the connection between ISC and Hamas. A recent U.N. report notes that the Israeli military itself has not found any evidence of illegal activity happening in the ISC institutions.

As I looked for analogies that would explain the situation with Islamic Charities, I thought of the Salvation Army. I remember how much I loved hearing the sound my coins made at Christmas time when I put them in the red metal pot, and the smile the old man in the Salvation Army uniform gave me as he rang his bell beside the pot.

My husband, however, associates the Salvation Army with Oliver North, whom it invited to speak at fundraising events. As someone who cared passionately about the human rights abuses the governments of Central America were committing against their citizens during the 1980s, he thought it was appalling that a Christian organization would provide North a platform, given that his work with U.S. intelligence agencies supported criminals responsible the deaths of thousands of Central Americans.

No one suggested shutting down the Salvation Army’s ministries because of their connection to a man who lied before congress about selling weapons to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras. No one in the United States would suggest shutting down charitable institutions for the needy run by conservative Republican Christians simply because a conservative Republican administration initiated the catastrophic violence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So our Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron will continue to sleep in the orphanages and schools run by ISC during this critical period, when most of the children are at home with extended families and the Israeli military might be more likely to wreck them, as it has already wrecked ISC bakeries, warehouses, and workshops. Because they are facilities built for needy children, and all three Abrahamic faiths count the care of children, especially orphans, as a hallmark of basic human morality.

Families in Wadi Nasara under attack from two sides

The families of Wadi Nasara–a valley on the outskirts of Hebron next to which the Kiryat Arba settlement has expanded–have had to put up with increasing amounts of settler harassment over the years. But in March 2007, when Israeli settlers occupied a Palestinian building across the road bordering Wadi Nasera, families in the valley, most belonging to the al-Ja’abari clan, began facing attacks from two sides.

The homes of three al-Ja’abari families lie literally within a stone’s throw of Kiryat Arba. The eighty people (including fifty children) living there face almost daily harassment from neighboring settlers. On 6-7 June 2008, settler youth entered the families’ property and smashed large rocks against the Ja’aberis’ rooftops, seriously damaging ceilings in two homes, and a solar water-heating panel on another. When CPTers David Martin and Kathleen Kern visited the area the following week, M* al-Ja’aberi told them, “They have thrown stones at us for years. They even attacked Israeli peacemakers who visited our homes. But when they set our home on fire a year ago, we knew we needed to seek the help of international peacemakers in the area.” CPT has since begun daily patrols in the area, along with two other international groups working in Hebron.

On 13 June 2008, a group of eight to ten settlers from the “Occupied House,” as local Palestinians refer to it, crossed the road and entered the home of a multi-family dwelling. They shouted threats and attempted to attack people in the home; however Al-Ja’aberi family members managed to push them out. Settlers also regularly throw trash in the families’ yards and “target” the homes with red laser sightings. When asked whether they called the police during altercations, H.* Al-Ja’aberi, the father of one of the families, told Martin, Kern, and Marius Van Hoogstraten, that the police and army always help the settlers when called during such attacks.

“If I am in the yard, settlers will walk by without looking, but if only children are out, they will attack them,” he told the CPTers.

“The kids grow up thinking everyone is equal,” al-Ja’abari continued. “My son doesn’t know there’s an occupation. If he is hit by a settler, he thinks it’s okay to hit back.” Children learn however, that when Palestinians respond in kind to settler assaults, the Israeli authorities will arrest them and not the Israelis.

On top of the additional violence and harassment that the Occupied House has brought to the people of Wadi Nasara, the Israeli military apparatus protecting settlers living in the house has caused significant hardship. A checkpoint now forces H. al-Ja’abari’s family to walk 600 meters down a treacherous, winding path to gain access to a car (The main paved road in the area runs right by the family’s house, but the Israeli army permits only settlers to use it.) He was forced to take this path after undergoing abdominal surgery; the Israeli military would not allow the ambulance to take him home. “Even if I were dying, I would have to walk,” al-Ja’abari said.

*Names have been changed to protect individuals

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