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Special Peace Team to Gaza, March 2, 2009


Here are some of insights and conclusions gleaned during our Special Peace Team to Gaza:

As we stood at the Erez and Rafah Crossings (borders in and out of Gaza) and as we talked by phone with friends in Gaza these things became clearer:

  • The grip of the occupation of Gaza is intense:
    Gaza is a walled prison. By land Israel encircles Gaza with walls electrified fences, and gun towers. Also, Israel retains control of Gazan air space, territorial waters, off shore maritime access, the population registry, the supply of electricity, water, fuel, gas, medicines, merchandise, entry and exit points regarding both people and goods, and the tax system.
  • The goal of the most recent bombing and invasion of Gaza was to terrorize the people.
    This bombing and invasion of Gaza (during December 27-January 18, 2009 AND continuing to the present day) was and is the most horrifying attack on Gaza in recent history.

As we talked with Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian people and internationals on the street and in bus stations, taxis, hotels, and restaurants these things became clearer:

  • Israeli citizens got behind the war, according to conversations and polls. Palestinian Israeli citizens who objected to the war have been harshly criticized, with the extreme right saying they should be expelled from the country.
  • The United States Government was and is a partner in the most recent siege against Gaza. Some people actually call this December 27-January 18, 2009 siege against Gaza “The United States and Israeli War against Gaza. The United States funds Israel’s military Occupation, including this invasion and closure of Gaza.
  • A key to change, that includes freedom and justice for Gazans and all Palestinians, is a change in the United. States’ relationship to Israel. The United States must stop funding and protecting Israel’s closure of Gaza and its ongoing attacks that kill children, women, and men.
  • There is a growing hatred of Americans in the Arab world that has roots in the United States unwavering commitment to Israel regardless of what Israel does.
  • The failure of the international community to stop or even restrain Israeli aggression and violations of human and political rights of Palestinians is a repeated scenario year after year. Israel is not held accountable by the international community so Israeli attacks and invasions of Gaza continue unabated.

At the same time, here are some positive things that fill us with hope and commitment:

  • The strength and resolve of Gazans and other Palestinians we know is incredible and inspiring.
  • We stand in solidarity with other international peace activists, NGOs, and all who work to assist Palestinians in their crisis and their cause for justice. We are not alone.
  • Palestinians appreciate all support they receive from the international community, and give us the mandate to tell the world the truth about the oppression they suffer.
  • We celebrate every change in the new Obama administration that can turn the tide toward peace for Palestinians and Israelis. They can live side by side. Palestinians and Israeli Jews we move among say so.
  • The work we feel mandated to do as MPT calls forth in us a relentless persistence to keep on.
  • ** We strive to change United States policy, believing a sea change will come.
    ** We continue to place our teams here in Palestine, at the request of Palestinians.
    ** We recruit new volunteers to be on our teams to Palestine.
    ** We educate the people of the United States about the reality of the Occupation.

With Gratitude …
Thank you for your continued commitment to Michigan Peace Team and thank you for your support – You are at the heart of Michigan Peace Team and your support helped to make possible this important SPECIAL PEACE TEAM TO GAZA!

-- Peter and Liz

Special Peace Team to Gaza, March 1, 2009

Photo Peter Dougherty
One example of civil society resistance -- everyone is doing something, and giving each other courage in the struggle. In this photo, a group of Palestinians are advocating on behalf of the people in Gaza with an Egyptian government official.

Notes from the West Bank

A Palestinian’s Analysis
Ahmed [not his true name] lives between Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank. He was impressive with his analysis of the Occupation of Palestine. He was also impressive with his understanding of nonviolent social change.

Ahmed has two masters’ degrees from U.S. universities, in the fields of Education and Political Science. He is married, with five children. He has a job in the public sector. Here we share a bit of his analysis.

“There are three approaches Palestinians have in this conflict. First, the Palestinian Authority approach – negotiations. This means doing whatever Israel says, with the idea that the world will see how it does not bring peace, but continual suffering for Palestinians, and the world will demand change and justice for Palestinians. However, negotiating and negotiating has no power. Second, the Hamas approach – armed struggle. This is a kind of power, but it is not going to bring peace. Third, civil society resistance. We do not like the word nonviolence; it doesn’t communicate the power we mean. We do not use violence, but organize the resistance.

In negotiating, the people are not involved, only the Palestinian government is. In the armed resistance approach, the people stay in their homes and hide. They are afraid and are not involved.

With civil society resistance, everyone is involved. Everyone is doing something, and giving each other courage in the struggle. This is the way to Peace. It is peace for Palestinians and Israelis.”

Ahmed’s commitment to nonviolence in the struggle for social change is striking. He knows the methods and strategies and can communicate it. He has been part of a civil society resistance organization, but less so now with his having recently been in the U.S.

Ahmed also shared the difficulty of creating civil society resistance. He says that right now there is less of that resistance in the West Bank. Israeli invasions are not happening now in the West Bank as they did a few years ago, and people are just trying to live their daily lives. [Note: The usual checkpoint harassment, the construction of the separation barrier, the building of Israeli settlements, etc., goes on.]

We (Liz and Peter) went to the Friday demonstration against the separation barrier and the Occupation. It was a cold rainy day, and there were fewer present than usual. A leader of the popular committee was glad to see us from MPT. Bil’in weekly demonstrations have been taking place for about three years. Though there is frequent violence by the Israeli military - including tear gas, sound bombs, beatings, rubber bullets, and at times live bullets – these Palestinians courageously confront the barrier.

We met there a Palestinian photojournalist who is a relative of Marwan Barghouthi, the imprisoned Palestinian resistance leader, who many Palestinians in the Fatah political party wish to become president of a new Palestine. He said his cousin Marwan told him recently that the U.S. government is in communication with him regarding an arrangement to have the Israeli government release him in a prisoner exchange with Israel. What influential role Marwan might play in the present situation is an unknown factor.

-- Liz and Peter


Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 28, 2009

Photo from Fr. Musullam

During a phone interview on February 28, one of our friends living in Gaza shared memories and reflections regarding the recent Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza. The person interviewed asked us not to use their name because it is a dangerous time. Instead we use pseudo name. Here are some excerpts from this sharing:

Question-Special Peace Team to Gaza:
During Israel’s most recent bombing and invasion of Gaza what happened to you and to the people you know and love?

As you remember our family home was destroyed by the Israeli army in 2004, as were many other homes and neighborhoods. All this was done to create their Philadelphia corridor. [The widened space the Israeli military had created between the Gaza and Egyptian border, where Israeli tanks can move]. We were homeless until we were able to get another home.

During the most recent bombing and invasion, our home and many others were damaged as bombs hit their targets. In our area, the Israeli army used F-16 planes and drones with missiles to attack us.

There were two deaths and many injuries in our neighborhood. One woman near us was hanging the family wash on the roof of her home when an attack came. She was killed, leaving many children without a mother. Another man was killed during another attack.

I was shocked that the Israeli army bombed a park for children in our area. Fifty were injured-37 children and 13 mothers. The bombers knew whom they are targeting. They targeted women and children.

In our town, three other children were killed when a bomb hit their home. And as I said many people were injured.

The people of Gaza know that the Israeli soldiers want to kill us. Did you hear me? The soldiers want to kill us.

Question-Special Peace Team to Gaza:
Has the siege ended?

It is not over. The Israeli army continues to shoot from the border. This happens many times. For example, last week a group of us were helping farmers in a field. Our people need food, so we were helping the farmers. For no reason the soldiers at the border starting shooting at us while we worked in the field. Why do they do this? They want to make us afraid and they want to kill us.

Question-Special Peace Team to Gaza:
How do you and your family and friends keep going?

The Israeli army tries to destroy everything. But they can’t kill Arabic way. They want to make us afraid. But it is not the Arabic way to be afraid.

If we are still alive, we believe life can get better. We do want to survive. We want to live. This is how we keep going.

It is very difficult now for all of us. Personally there is a dark part in my heart that I do not want. What I want is to live and to hold on to hope. Inshalla …

-- Posted by Peter and Liz

Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 27, 2009

Build Hope in the People of Gaza

Since the borders to Gaza have been closed to internationals, we (Liz and Peter) were not able to interview Fr. Manuel Musallam in person in Gaza City. For days we stood at the border, which is about six miles from his Holy Family Parish, hoping to see him again. This interview was by phone today. His voice as well as his words communicate the intensity of the pain he feels.

No one here in Gaza can think about the future. It is impossible to think about the future. They [Israelis] have decided for us not to BE.

The talk about reconstruction of Gaza is a big joke. This is not the last time Israel will destroy Gaza.

Instead of building houses, roads, farms – build HOPE in the spirits of the people in Gaza. This is what we are facing now. Give us something to hope for.

No one in Gaza is thinking of reconstruction, peace talks. Everyone here is waiting for a new war.

Everywhere people are speaking about defending Israel. Destroying Gaza is not a crime!
Words spoken are without a concept, without any meaning. Destroying, not a crime. White phosphorous bombs are not a crime. The world is trying to convince us that this is normal! Like ants being crushed.

I saw a journalist’s picture of a child sitting on a missile. The missile is bigger than the child! We must face a world that accepts this as normal! The ‘’siege’’ is the siege continuing right now. No one is saying the Palestinians have a right to be protected.

Fanatic parties in Israel are refusing the two state solution - withdraw from East Jerusalem, the settlements. They are building more settlements. They are torturing Palestinians.

When leaders speak of Gaza, we don’t want to ‘’rebuild’’ Gaza. We have lived thousands of years without roads. We were better off then than now. We don’t need new things.

A question to you: What if it was in reverse with Israel. If white phosphorous was used on them, what would be the reaction of the world? If we had rockets from Iran attacking Tel Aviv destroying half of Tel Aviv, what would be the world response? Palestinians should buy and have the right to buy sophisticated weapons to stop Israel. Between slaughter and death, we have no option.

Build HOPE in the spirits of the people in Gaza.
(Photo from Fr. Musullam)
-- Posted by Liz and Peter

Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 26, 2009

We Don't Know Where to Go

Here is Part Two of Fr. Manuel Musullam's penetrating analysis given to MPT Special Peace Team to Gaza 2009. He is Pastor of Holy Family Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City.

For the past 18 years, we have been looking for peace and justice with Israel - face to face, hand in hand and kiss to kiss. We are lost in the chasm of negotiations and agreements.

Israel wants peace and peace cannot be achieved without justice.

Israel says: Is it conceivable that a democratic state tolerates the shelling of its cities and citizens with rockets for 10 years and has 11 people killed? We respond with: Is it conceivable that any people accept to remain under 60 years of occupation without resisting?

The world remembers the handmade Hamas rockets, and it does not remember the developed phosphoric missiles from which we suffer every day.

If we resist, the world screams at us and labels us as terrorists and does not scream at those who have occupied us for six decades. Is it not a crme against humanity for us to live under occupation and humiliating siege all this time, 60 years?

When we attack a settlement that stole our land and the trees that sustain us, the world rebukes us and labels us as killers of innocent people, but the world does not lift a finger to remove a settlement that it recognizes as illegal and a war crime under the law.

Everyone screams: Peace and security for Israel and no one whispers: justice, Jerusalem, and return for Palestinians.

-- Posted by Peter and Liz

Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 25, 2009

Photo from Fr. Musallum-- One of hundreds of children killed recent Israeli bombing of Gaza

Photo from Fr. Musallum --
Israeli bombs destroying part of Gaza City during recent seige
Fr. Musallum, himself a Palestinian, is a Catholic priest in Gaza City, Pastor of Holy Family Church. He has been serving the people of Gaza continuously for over 15 years. He is eyewitness to the occupation of Palestine and to the most recent bombing and invasion of Gaza December 27-January 18, 2009.

Here is Part One of Fr. Musullam's penetrating analysis given to MPT Special Peace Team to Gaza 2009.

Penetrating Analysis by a Palestinian in Gaza

Gaza City, Gaza Strip
Father Manuel Mussalum, Latin Catholic Church, Gaza

Israel, our neighbor in Gaza, has failed to manage its affairs with its neighbors. It corrects the Palestinian people especially because it claims Palestinians resist its return to the "Promising Land." It is correcting us Palestinians with war, massacres, war crimes, and displacement. It has destroyed our homes, our farms, our villages and established settlements on them. It has uprooted hundreds of thousands of productive olive and orange trees, and has forbidden us from reaping the yields of our fields. It has opened bypass roads and eroded our lands. It has destroyed, fragmented, and isolated our cities, villages, and fields. It has built and set up hundreds of checkpoints to disrupt our lives. It has prevented us from reaching our holy places of worship in Aqsa, the Nativity, and the Holy Sepulchre. It has built the apartheid wall around the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. It has broken our bones and forbidden treatment and medication. It has assassinated our leaders. It has thrown us in a "ghetto" with no water, no electricity, no medicine, or food or work. We are dying a slow death.

Sedrot, close [Israeli] settlement to Gaza, became a Wailing Wall that all world leaders and tourists come to in order to see the relics left by Qassam rockets which have killed 12 Israelis since 2002. Whereas, we do not dare build a monument that perpetuates the memory of thousands of innocent Palestinians killed during war crimes in Gaza, because Israel will not fail to destroy it during its construction.

In the recent barbaric war on Gaza hundreds of innocent children, men and women, and the elderly, were burned in the furnaces of sophisticated bombs and missiles. And what difference is there between the furnaces in which the Jews died in Germany and Poland and the furnaces in which we died in Gaza?

The world saw them through journalists and satellite channels. People of good will like Archbishop Tutu, human rights organizations, lawyers, and specialists in crimes against humanity, started to come to visit us. Israel hindered the delegations from reaching us humiliating them as they were holding them at the borders of Rafah [Rafah Crossing] and Beit Hanoun [Erez Crossing].

Our people fell victim to robbers. "They stripped him and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead." Mr. Bush saw us, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise European leaders, both Islamic and Christianity worlds, came to the place, and when they saw us, they passed by on the opposite side. When will the merciful Samaritan come upon us moved with compassion at this sight?

The United States with its right to veto defeated any solution or commitment to international law, so Israel behaved as above the law. Now America wants to change international law so that the leaders of Israel will not be put on trial as war criminals. Israel roams over our land, it has no borders. Every day, it engulfs a plot of land, but thousands of square meters. Is it possible that the world recognizes a state with no borders after 60 years of its establishment? The state of Israel is the unique model of this in the world.

-- Posted by Liz and Peter


Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 24, 2009

Egyptian official tells Peter and Liz, "You cannot enter Gaza." (first photo)

Middle Photo: Protest on February 24, 2009 at the Rafah Crossing

Last Photo: Children entering war torn Gaza Today

For a second day we (Liz and Peter) arrived at the Rafah Crossing border on the Egyptian side and requested entry into Gaza. Like yesterday, we were denied entry. No internationals are being allowed to enter, no matter what NGO they may represent.

Palestinians who live in Gaza are being allowed to return home, and for that we are glad. Few Gazans are being allowed out of Gaza. A Red Crescent ambulance arrived at the entrance, transporting a Gazan man, age 48, lying on a pallet. He had been injured in the head during the 22-day Israeli invasion of December-January. He was taken to a hospital in Cairo, and today was being brought home.

We met other internationals who also are attempting to enter Gaza. We became a small bonded group for the day.

One woman is Palestinian, born in and living in the U.S., who is not being allowed to see her family living in Gaza because she does not have Palestinian resident I.D. She and another Palestinian living in the same city brought a modest amount of medicine and other goods which were admitted into Gaza yesterday.

This passionate vocal woman brought a fine large banner saying "We are all Gaza." She invited us to join in holding this banner in front of the gate and chanting "Freedom for Palestine; Justice for Palestine!" We and a few others did so gladly. Egypt TV arrived and briefly filmed this vigil.

A man who is Egyptian and lives in Toronto teaches electrical and computer engineering at a university. He has been part of a group doing the same work as MPT.

A Bosnian man who had been raised in Syria represents an NGO in Bosnia called International Forum of Solidarity-Emmaus.

Looking just beyond the Rafah Crossing entrance we saw the Israeli gun tower that we had come to know a few years ago as we accompanied the Palestinians within Rafah, Gaza. We also saw that the huge wall along the Egypt-Gaza border was now gone. The space between called the Philadelphi Corridor used to routinely have many tanks that roamed, invaded, and shot at Gazans and their homes. In 2005 the Israelis withdrew Israeli settlers, soldiers and the tanks. But as we have seen, Israel invades Gaza at will, as they did in Operation Cast Iron.

Our small group traveled to the town of Rafah, Egypt, which has many soldiers and police out in force. We (Liz and Peter) wanted to see into Rafah, Gaza. Our hearts are with our friends there that we cannot see now face to face, though we communicate by phone. Liz identified the tower near the entrance of the Gaza Strip, north of Gaza City.

In the next few days we will share interviews and photos from our friends in Gaza whom we cannot greet face to face because of the oppressive closure of the borders that deny entry of adequate necessities of life to Gazans who are enclosed in their prison.

Imprisoned they may be, but we celebrate their will to carry on and their hope for a free Palestine.

--Liz and Peter


Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 23, 2009

Photo taken by Fida

A view of the border area from Rafah, Gaza Strip... From 2001-2004 the Israeli military demolished thousands of Palestinian homes and neighborhoods on both sides of the gray wall to create the so called "Philadelphi corridor." This same "corridor" was bombed continuously during the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Gazans and Egyptians living near the border experienced the terror of this bombing.


As mentioned in previous reports, the Rafah Crossing is controlled by the Egyptian authorities and it is the "other way" to get into Gaza. Significantly, Rafah, Egypt is directly across from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Both are located along the so called Philadelphia corridor that was bombed repeatedly during the invasion of Gaza.

In spite of the fact that Egyptians are suffering terribly because of Israel's assault on Gaza, Egypt continues to honor its treaty with Israel and cooperates with Israel on many Palestinian issues. Border control is one example.

Sincerely believing that we were finally going to enter Gaza and be with our friends in this time of need, happily we made our way to the Rafah Crossing early this morning. We had good reason to be encouraged ... For the first time since February 5, Egypt opened this Rafah Crossing both yesterday and today.

As we approached gates we learned that people with Palestinian identity cards were being allowed to cross. This was VERY GOOD NEWS because many Palestinians have been waiting to enter Gaza since February 5. However, the disappointing news was that Egypt was not allowing foreigners to enter.

So we joined with many others who wait ... We waited with Palestinians who do not have identity cards because they are citizens of different countries. We waited with doctors from England who came to attend to the medical needs of Gazans. We waited with NGO representatives, who are ready to help with resources and assistance. We waited with representatives of groups prepared to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Some of these wonderful people have been waiting for twenty days and more!

This crossing is on the outskirts of Rafah, Egypt. Late in the afternoon, we (Peter and Liz) went into the city with the hope of interviewing some residents. From the moment we approached the city, we experienced high tension in the air, and an atmosphere of high alert.

We learned that homes and neighborhoods in Rafah, Egypt were damaged during the Israeli bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Also we heard that residents along the border had been evacuated a number of times due Israel's continued bombing of the Philadelphia corridor after the ceasefire.

As we proceeded toward the center of Rafah, Egypt, the extent of the Egyptian militarization was shocking. In the short distance to the town square, we went through nine military check points. During this time, we saw military and paramilitary armed with revolvers, rifles, and machine guns - many behind stacks of sand bags. Also, we witnessed armed guards stopping every car, and some pedestrians.

At the town square we were stopped again by plain clothes policemen who asked for our passports like so many others had done beforehand. They checked on us with authorities, returned our passports, called a taxi for us, and told us we had to leave. Since we did not want to add to the stress of these people, we willingly departed.

Tomorrow we plan to return to the Rafah Crossing in the hope that foreigners will be admitted. During our time there we will talk with people and offer our care, support, and appreciation. Also, whenever possible we will talk about the power of nonviolence in creating social change that leads to true peace with justice.

In all we say and do tomorrow, we'll continue to hold the people of Gaza in our hearts!

-- Peter and Liz

Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 22, 2009


Today we traveled from Cairo eastward to Al Arish, where we arrived by bus soon after 11:00pm. It is 27 miles from Rafah. While on the bus we got word from one of our friends in Gaza that the Rafah Crossing, which had been closed since last Wednesday, was open today and will be open tomorrow. We are expecting to enter Gaza in the morning.

There are two Rafahs. In 1982, as a result of the Camp David Accords, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and the city of Rafah was divided. One Rafah remains part of the Gaza Strip. The other Rafah is part of Egypt. To cope with the division, smugglers made tunnels, connecting the two parts. These tunnels became an integral part of Rafah's economy on both sides.

Families were divided when that split took place. As the Israeli Occupation of Gaza grew more oppressive, Israel built a huge security wall along the border with Egypt. It was difficult for families to see one another, though living perhaps a few football fields' distance away.

In 2007 Israel began a closure of the Gaza Strip, which continues to this day. Increasingly Gazans have been without adequate food, water, medicine, and many basic necessities of life. Smuggling basic necessities has been a lifeline for Rafah in Gaza. Smuggling has included weapons used by Hamas to fight the occupation.

During the terrible 22 day Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip that ended January 18, Israel continually bombed suspected tunnels along the border with Egypt. It was not only horrible for the people of Gazan Rafah, but also for Rafah in Egypt.

Egypt, which signed a treaty with Israel, tightened control over the border. It has intensified efforts to stop arms smuggling via the underground tunnels. During the invasion it made aid distribution through the Rafah Crossing difficult. Near the end of January it installed surveillance cameras along the 8 1/2 mile border with Gaza to detect smuggling activity. The United States is pledging $32 million in detection equipment, and offering army engineers to provide assistance on the ground.

All of this activity makes life a hell for Gazans. What will we see when we enter Rafah, Gaza City, and other parts of the Strip? We brace ourselves for the devastation we will witness. We will look into the eyes of our friends, and continue to walk with them, and we will tell the world of their suffering and their cry for justice.

--Liz and Peter


Special Peace Team to Gaza, February 21, 2009


Our presence as a special MPT Peace team to Gaza continues to take us to the gates of Erez Crossing into Gaza where daily Israel refuses to admit us, and, because we are also trying to get into Gaza via the Rafah Crossing through Egypt, it brings us to Cairo. Significantly, to date we have not been able to get a single Egyptian to comment on the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza or on the “peace talks” happening right here in Cairo between Egyptian mediators and negotiators for Israel and Hamas.

The war on Gaza continues to fill us with shock and dismay as we reflect on the destruction and carnage there. In Cairo, we also experiencing intense disappointment in over the failure of the Egyptian mediated peace talks between negotiators from Israel and Hamas. Here in Cairo it appears that Israel abandoned previously agreed upon ceasefire commitments and demanded unilateral compliance new issues. Imagine what our friends must feel in Gaza who are overwhelmed by 20 months of blockade and three weeks of bombardment and invasion!

We will soon be within yards away from our friends imprisoned, hungry, and homeless across the border and we still hope to be with them.

We are encouraged by the way Gazans carry on their beleaguered daily lives,

Unlike one taxi driver and many others who believe there will always be a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, we believe that it will end. Nonviolence is the source of our strength and hope for a true and just resolution to the conflict.

-- Peter and Liz


Report from Special Team to Gaza, February 20, 2009

From Cairo To Rafah

We are here in Cairo to get what papers we need in our attempt to enter Gaza through Rafah, Egypt, while we also continue our first option to seek entry through Israel.

On Wednesday, February 18, 2009, Israel informed Hamas that the crossings into Gaza will remain closed except for humanitarian needs until Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit is released by Hamas. This decision comes after a confusing week of mixed messages by the Israeli government that led its own chief negotiator, Amos Gilad, to criticize his government's decision that Hamas must first release Schalit before there is any talk of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

This decision affects us because the present policy of letting in a restricted number of NGOs and people like ourselves into Gaza will continue.

Michigan Peace Team holds the position that it is not up to us to decide how Palestinians and Israelis work out a resolution to the conflicts between them. We insist that it must be a just solution for Palestinians and Israelis, providing security for all. The violence must end on both sides. This means the occupation of Palestine by Israel must end, and rockets fired at Israeli civilians must end. Postponing negotiations that lead to a just solution is in itself unjust. Popular society should exert pressure on governments toward this end.

We head for the Rafah border crossing soon.

--Liz an Peter


Report from Special Team to Gaza, February 18, 2009


We stayed at the gates of Erez Crossing for three days, waiting to receive or "coordination papers" from Israel to enter Gaza. One day we met a delegation of government officials - MPs- from the United Kingdom. We resonated with their concern for the people of Gaza. After waiting some time, they received their coordination papers. They were scheduled to meet with Fr. Musallam, the pastor of the Catholic church in Gaza City that evening, and we were hoping to join them at that gathering. The next day, as we were still waiting outside of Erez, they greeted us as they came from Gaza.

We also met a number of other NGOs entering Gaza. One NGO group that touched us deeply was Save The Children. Another was UNICEF.

During our time there we have been eyewitnesses to the fact that many individuals and groups are not being accepted. Even one of Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity was denied entry! The sisters have a mission in Gaza City working with handicapped children and the elderly homeless.

Our plan when we came to Palestine/Israel was to be present at the gates of Erez for three days awaiting entrance into Gaza. If we had not entered by then, we would attempt a second option by entering Gaza through Egypt, while continuing to check daily to see if we received coordination papers for entering Erez. Attempting this option through Egypt is part of our mission to explore multiple ways for MPT teams to enter Gaza. We are now on our way to Egypt.

We received word today that donations are coming in to Michigan Peace Team to help cover the costs of this special mission to Gaza. We are deeply grateful for your being part of this important peace work.


Report from Special Team to Gaza, February 16-17, 2009

The goal of our MPT team has been to be in Gaza with the people who have suffered the horrific Israeli invasion of December 27-January 18, which killed over 1,300, including over 400 children, and wounded thousands, and destroyed a massive amount of Gaza's infrastructure. This invasion came withing the three-year ongoing blockade that severely limits food, medicine and all necessities of life. We are still striving to enter there.

MPT is committed to ending all violence in resolving conflicts, and that is true of the Palestine/Israel conflict. We do not condone the great violence of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Likewise, we oppose the violence of Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza on populated Israeli cities and towns. Our MPT commitment is to hear the cry of all who suffer violence in this conflict and do what we can to break that cycle of violence. Violence can bring out the worst in us, and it escalates and grows.

In that spirit, we have spoken with Israelis who have been vicitims of rockets fired from Gaza. What follows is our interviews with Israelis who agreed to speak with us. Their experience is a piece of the picture we must hear, if we are truly committed to justice, peace and reconciliation. Questions we asked them include 1) What has been your experience here in Israel with the rockets being fired from Gaza? 2) What insights can you share with us that will help us to understand the situation here? 3) What is your hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

This report presents the responses (including experiences and viewpoints) of individual Israelis that we interviewed ...

A Faculty Member Ashkelon Academic College -- located at the corner of Ben Zvi and Eli Cohen St. in Ashkelon, Israel. This college was hit by one of the rockets launched from Gaza ...

Feb 16, 2009 Interview of Efrat (her first name). I have a teaching position on the way to a PhD, in the Dept. of Criminology, here at the Ashkelon Academic College. It is a public, not private college. Yes, it is the only college in Ashkelon.

A missile from Gaza hit Ashkelon about a month ago. We always get missile attacks. For nine years now we have been under attack. A stream of missiles. The army doesn't want to retaliate. Israel wants an agreement with the Palestinians. We don't see Hamas representing the government of the Palestinians. They don't want an agreement. They try to sabatage agreements. The south of our country is under attack. In January the missiles were more frequent. Now there is a greater range of attack.

We had no choice; we had to retaliate. We see ourselves defending, not being aggresive. We were provoked. Our citizens are under attack. Daily life is disturbed. Mothers with children are fearful. We want to carry on our daily lives without danger. There were 40 missiles a day in January. Most fell in open spaces. No one was injured. Classes were cancelled from pre-school through college. When we get the warning, we have 13 minutes to get to a shelter. Every building has a shelter. We have received instructions: for example, go to a shelter, or to the lower floors, or to stairways. If you are driving, get out of the car. Go to a bus station or wherever you can. If you are outside, put you head down and raise you knees to protect yourself.

There are sad stories. Some were hit while driving, injured badly, mothers with little kids. We Israelis always seem to be the "bad" guys, in Europe and in some of the U.S. Hamas spreads itself amoung civilians, so innocent people get hit - we don't have any choice.

All Israelis have to do military service, starting at age 18. The youth today doesn't want to be recruited. 25% avoid the army. I did not go into the army, by circumstances of my life at the time.To our parents, this land was sacred. Now, for us who are younger, Life is sacred. We grew up on stories of our fathers struggle for liberation, saying "It's good to die for our country." We say, "we don't want to die." That's how I see it. We do love our country. We see our Holy Book in relation to our country. We are willing to make great compromise. The other side needs to make peace. I don't see them at that stage of development.

I'm very pessimistic. I don't see peace for the next 50 years. I have a little child. It's now a global issue. Muslims against the U.S.... We, Israel are the devil.... We're not at a prime time as human beings.

Students at Ashekelon Academic College -- Brief responses from eight different students:

Student 1: "Rockets are horrible and war is horrible. I want peace."

Student 2:" How can they fire rockets into schools and neighborhoods?"

Student 3: "Rockets grow hatred on both sides. My own friends are becoming hate-filled. I believe that is happening in Gaza too. It's a bad situation and will only grow worse unless there are major changes."

Student 4: "How are we supposed to live with this? When will there be peace?"

Student 5: "I hate the rockets and I'm growing to hate the people who send them."

Student 6: "You see, the rockets only do two things. They make people fearful and they increase hatred on both sides. You ask about peace, my response is WHEN?"

Student 7: "The new rockets from Gaza have a much longer range. Now the war is in our homes and on our streets. This must be stopped. What is the answer? There is only ONE answer. We have to defend ourselves."

Student 8: "We are being hit now. One hit our college. Many, many more rockets will come to Israel. Soon all of Israel will be under attack. My brother is a soldier in north Gaza. He says many more rockets are coming, soon. I believe there will never be peace. Never, never, never."

One Other Ashkelon Academic College Student, Named David -- His response seemed to sum up comments about fear that many other students also expressed:

David said: "What is there to say that has not already been said over and over in the press and on the TV? Many are afraid. In my family my father says we should not be afraid because it gives power to the people who are attacking us. But I am afraid about the people I care about. I think about my cousin who is eight years old. During the war a rocket hit next to his school. My cousin called his mother and dad and told them how afraid he was. He said that all of his friends were crying and he had never seen kids cry like this. His parents became very angry. So I ask you, "How would you feel if your family was under fire?" ... Wouldn't you be afraid? ... Wouldn't you be angry? ... Wouldn't you defend your family?"

A Businessman in the Wider Ashkelon Community:

An Israeli businessman from Ashkelon offered a different perspective. His opening response was ... My God, I feel terrible about the war in Gaza. I have many friends, business associates, and workers in Gaza. I am very worried about them and their families, and all the people of Gaza. The situation is terrible and they are suffering.

This Israeli businessman explained that until the mid-1990's he owned businesses in Gaza that were co-owned by Gazan partners. They employed many in Gaza . Also his own Israeli businesses employed many in Ashkelon. Moreover, he said the border was open before 1993 and thousands of other Gazans worked in Israel.

During the recent war in Gaza this businessman's home in Ashkelon was struck by a rocket from Gaza, destroying the roof. He believes Hamas is the problem. Also he is convinced that the borders of Gaza must be re-opened if there is to be peace.

A Resident Near the Gaza Border:

In the afternoon we took the bus from Ashkelon to an Israeli town that is one kilometer from the Erez crossing. In the town Peter asked a resident for directions to the Erez crossing. This resident offered to drive us to Erez and on the way gave us a tour of the town and surrounding farming region. During the tour he told us that the town had been the target of Qassam rockets for many years, and during recent months the town had been hit by rockets and artillery over one hundred times.

He reflected that this was not always the case, stressing that until 1993 Gazans and Israelis were friends and co-workers. He added that over 500 Gazans worked in the town, and surrounding greenhouses and gardens.

-- Posted by Liz and Peter on February 17, 2009


Report from Special Team to Gaza, February 10-11 -- First evening and next day

While waiting at JFK airport in New York for our flight to Tel Aviv, we shared space with many families of the Hasidic tradition. People young and old filled the room with conversation and children playing. At one point, several of the men came to one side and conducted their evening prayer, with Peter sitting in their midst. It was good to be surrounded by prayer! The flight that followed was restful.

When we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport inTel Aviv, we breezed through customs with no questions asked. A bus took us an hour away to the Old City of Jerusalem What a joy for us to be back in Jerusalem, the City of Peace, the city of three Faiths, AND a city of contradictions.

Here, Gaza is in the hearts of many. Both Palestinian and Israeli, expressed horror over the destruction of Gaza that happened during Operation Cast Lead, December 27 – January18, 2009. A cook in a restaurant where we had dinner said, “We saw what they did to Gaza, and we know this could happen to us!” Some people we trust are saying that in the very near future Israel will attack Gaza again through an air strike campaign.

On February 11, we met with the Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem who was recently in Gaza. He was deeply touched by the suffering of the people, and by their strength, goodness and resilience. He said Gazans are making every effort to carry on with their daily lives, in spite of the destruction. Following this meeting, we traveled to Bethlehem to meet with peacemaker friends who continue to do the works of peace with justice.

During our short time here, we are also learning that Israelis, Palestinians, and Internationals living in the Holy Land are very hopeful that President Obama will help end the Israeli Palestinian conflict and make positive changes in US policy in the Middle East. The extent of their hope is striking.To us it is clear that this hope places a heavy burden on USA citizens to urge our government to help end the conflict andmake needed positive changes.

At regular intervals we are calling Erez to find out if we can pass into Gaza. In the meantime being in close proximity enables us to be in telephone conversations with our Gazan friends…

- Peter and Liz



Today, our Special Gaza Team members arrived safely in Palestine/Israel. They will continue on to Gaza soon. Please watch for more!


A Letter from the Special Gaza Team

February 7, 2009

Dear Friends,

VERY SOON Michigan Peace Team is sending two of us, Peter & Liz, on a peace team mission to the Gaza Strip. We go with all the love in our hearts to support our friends who have suffered the horror of the most recent bombing and invasion.

As always, we live with the conviction that a continued peace-with-justice presence activates and grows peace. We believe peaceful people are able find just solutions to problems that seem insurmountable. Moreover, we believe that now more than ever is the time to be in Gaza because:

1.Our friends in Gaza are asking us to come. They want us to be with them now, AND, they want to explore possibilities for future peace team presence. In addition, some are asking for nonviolent training and violence reduction skills training that could help open the way to a more peaceable and just future.

2.As the media leaves Gaza, the world mistakenly believes the crisis is over.

3.Gazans are an isolated and blockaded people. The presence of internationals helps to break this isolation and it helps to foster hope and resilience for the long haul.

In addition, to our peace mission in Gaza, we, (Peter and Liz) plan to visit and be a peaceful presence in the Israeli cities hit by militant rockets from Gaza – that is, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Sderot.

Past peace teams: You may remember that MPT has nurtured relationships in Gaza with peace teams-in-action during summer and fall of 2003, during the summers of 2004 and 2005, and with short term peace teams to Gaza during 2006, 2007, and 2008.

The up-coming peace team to Gaza that we are about to undertake is above and beyond what MPT budgeted for the year. Having borrowed the necessary funding from MPT, we are moving ahead because we know we must.

In this spirit, we invite you to join us in keeping hope and the possibilities for peace with justice ALIVE!

If you are able to help us with a donation we would be most grateful. Your gift small or large WILL be deeply appreciated.

To send a donation, using a check:

1.Make your check payable to Michigan Peace Team
2.Include a note on the check that your gift is given for “Special Peace Team to Gaza” or “Gaza Peace Mission” THIS IS IMPORTANT!
3.Send your gift to:

Michigan Peace Team
1516 Jerome St.
Lansing, MI 48912


To send a donation using a credit card:

1.Open the Michigan Peace Team Page an click the Network for Good Icon box
2.Sign In or enroll
3.Fill in the necessary information
4.Designate your donation-“Special Peace Team to Gaza”
5.Add to cart and follow final directions

If you are not able to make a donation at this time, we certainly understand. These are harsh economic times. Be assured that we are grateful beyond words for your support over the years, and we hope that you will continue to hold the mission of Michigan Peace Team in your hearts.

Gratefully, and in solidarity,
Peter and Liz

FINAL NOTE; For reports in the field, check this MPT blogspot: Nicole, MPT’s international peace team coordinator, has created a wonderful blog for international peace teams.

When the electricity is on, Peter and Liz will be posting to this blog. We do hope you will check it regularly.

Already there are two entries. To read these and other entries soon to come:

1.Type mptinpalestine.blogspot.com in the URL address bar at the top of your screen, and Click the arrow or click enter;
2.Type “MPT in Palestine” in the search engine on your screen and Select/Click the first NOTES IN THE FIELD

"Michigan Peace Team is a nonprofit organization that pursues peace through active nonviolence in places of conflict."

Support MPT Team To GAZA

'Our Peace Team experience teaches us that the occupation of
Gaza and the West Bank is the fundamental violence in the region.'
-From Michigan Peace Team “Call to Action” for Gaza

All of us at MPT hold those suffering as a result of the violence in Gaza in mind.
To find resources and to take immediate action, please visit
MPT's ACT NOW ON GAZA webpage.

In addition to taking urgent action regarding the situation in Gaza (see http://www.michiganpeaceteam.org/act_now!.htm), you can explore ways to have an impact on the ongoing conflict in the region by find out more about International Peace Teams to the West Bank in 2009. Please click on the link to “Teams” on the left toolbar on our website (www.michiganpeaceteam.org
), or email Nicoler.mpt@gmail.com for more information.

Of course you can also DONATE to TEAMS and designate "Special Gaza Team" by following the link on our website, or searching "Michigan Peace Team" on WWW.NETWORKFORGOOD.ORG.



On Our Way

One scarlet poppy blooms in the desert, a symbol of hope and renewal
despite crushingly harsh conditions. (Nicole)

Dear Friends,

We - Liz and Peter- will be leavin very soon for Gaza. We encourage you to check this site regularly to receive our reports. We will be supporting people, listening to their stories, documenting human rights abuses, and whatever else we are able to do. We will tell them that many in our country are wanting justice for Palestinians, as well as for Israelis. Work to end the occupation!



Preparing as an MPT Peace Team

Preparing for our journey to Israel and Palestine and most especially for our Peace Team to Gaza requires in depth study , excellent nonviolence training, commitment to nonviolence, commitment to working together as team, and day to day, hour by hour discipline in the skills of nonviolent action. Michigan Peace Team is doing a great job helping us grow in these key components/requirements.

In terms of study there is a wealth of material available.


Watch for Posts from GAZA MPT TEAM-- Next Week!

Important News: MPT is sending an emergency team to Gaza following the recent invasion and ongoing violence there. The team will be on the ground next week, and they will be posting reports as soon and as often as conditions allow. If there's a gap, MPT office will also post updates to keep people informed about the team.