During the Vietnam war I worked with CRS (Catholic Relief Services) in the refugee camps and orphanages for 1 ½ years. Basically this was a
“life changing” experience.
From 2002-2004, I had the chance to spend 2 years teaching about HIV/AIDS in the schools in St. Lucia in the West Indies with the Peace Corps. With this experience too, I worked with and appreciated a different culture. A year later, I spent 3 months working again in refugee camps in Sri Lanka following the terrible tsunami.
In all of these experiences I marveled at the resilience and hope of downtrodden people.
More recently, while being involved in the Pax Christi organization, I learned about the Michigan Peace Team. Once again it seemed like a good fit for my current interest--peace, peace, peace.
I am married and have 3 adult children and four grandchildren.
I look forward to being a member of the Fall Team.
Prior to working in the schools, I worked in foster care and adoptions but then applied to work with Catholic Relief Services in Vietnam which I did in 1968-69. During this time, I found the love of my life (Mary) and we married two years later. I have three children--all supportive of the peace movement. My two sons and daughter are now adults and on their own.
In 2002, I joined the Peace Corps and was deployed for two years to the small island of St. Lucia. While there I helped establish a special needs program for children with learning disabilities. In 2005, I traveled to Sri Lanka (with Crisis Corps--a branch of Peace Corps) after the tsunami to work in the refugee camps for three months.
In all of these experiences, I loved learning about different cultures and working with the local people. Everyone wants a better life for themselves and their children.
In 2006, I helped found a Pax Christi chapter. At a State convention, I discovered the Michigan Peace Team. I was interested in the work they do and am now excited to be a member of the 2009 Fall Team.
This is Porkchop, being held by Z, my 9-year-old housemate. Neither of them will be traveling with MPT to Palestine this Fall. As Porkchop's person, I will go in her stead.
I was fortunate to be able to travel with MPT several years ago. When I left for Palestine/Israel I showered everyday, but when I came back, days would go by without me taking a shower. Water is such a huge issue in the world, and particularly in the Middle East. According to the World Bank, some 1.1 billion people currently lack access to clean drinking water, and by 2025, 3.5 billion people will live in areas where water is scarce or becoming scarce. In Palestine/Israel, settlements often have lawns and swimming pools, while nearby Palestinian communities don't have adequate drinking water. I knew all this before I left, but being there changed my habits. I still use too much water, run too much to wash dishes, etc, but it's something I am much more conscious about.
In the context of a beautiful, crowded world of limited resources, I think people can learn a lot from cats, and not only because they very rarely shower. The United States and Israel, as well as much of Europe, use far more than our share of the world's resources because we can, and as peace activists we can work on that power differential. But I think we can also ask questions about the culture that leads us to always want more, more, bigger, more luxurious, etc. And I think that we can argue not only that the insatiability of capitalism is unsustainable and immoral, but that by truly savoring small pleasures, we can have more with less. I watch Porkchop, and she fills each day with luxurious experiences. She wakes up, and stretches and yawns extravagantly. She licks herself all over, including all four paws, and looks so pleased with herself. She purrs and purrs when I rub around her ears. And so many people in this country seem to have so much, and yet derive little pleasure from it.
The authors show the success of this concept through the story of Peace Brigade International’s accompaniment of activists in Guatemala, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Haiti. In these nations, protective accompaniment took many forms: from being with an individual 24 hours per day to being present in the offices of a threatened organization, from acting as "observers" at peaceful marches or protests to traveling with people on risky journeys. Accompanied threatened individuals included human rights activists, trade unionists, community leaders and organizers, and peace activists. Instrumental to PBI's work is the building of relationships with local non-governmental organizations and local, regional and national authorities. In addition to tracing the development of protective accompaniment, the authors analyze the power of the technique as well as the potential pitfalls. Revealing interviews with key political and military figures involved in the events described lend credence to the power of this tactic in curtailing violence and saving lives.
An aspect of PBI protective accompaniment that intrigued me was its international network of supporters -- PBI members and other concerned individuals, academic and religious organizations, government representatives, the UN and non-governmental bodies such as Amnesty International -- who react promptly to an alert issued by PBI and apply pressure to prevent further acts of violence. PBI activates the alert system whenever one of the teams or someone they accompany is faced with death threats, abduction, arrest or assault. A case sheet is sent out with details of the violation and perpetrators, background information, the suggested wording of an appeal, and the contact details of the intended recipients. Participants are asked to immediately send faxes, emails or letters to government and military authorities in the country in which the crisis is occurring and/or to approach their own government officials to do it on their behalf. Within hours of the initial incident, there are hundreds of faxes and emails protesting the violation.
I've been a long-time member of Amnesty International but I have to confess to not having had much confidence in the effectiveness of their letter-writing campaigns. I was stunned to learn that an alert could generate such response and that such response could have such a significant impact on a rogue government, making them aware that such violations are not occurring in isolation and the eyes of the international community are upon them. Thus these networks multiply the protective power of PBI's international presence.
- How immune is Israel/the Israeli army to MPT, ISM, and other peace groups and foreign observers?
- Has Israel's "immunity"/impunity been threatened since the Gaza invasion?
- Could MPT, in collaboration with other peace groups, create a network of supporters to respond to alerts, such as Peace Brigades International?
August 21, 2009—Two MPTers traveled to the village of ‘Iraq Burin to join a protest against the continued confiscation of village lands, as well as the inability to access their agricultural land. The village is 8 kilometers west of
(Marching to the fields that farmers in 'Iraq Burin no longer have access to because of the nearby illegal settlement.)
One hundred dunums of ‘Iraq Burin land has been confiscated by
The demonstration that MPT joined, was the third that has taken place in the village. After the noon prayer, protestors including Palestinian and international activists marched toward their confiscated lands, while holding banners and Palestinian flags. There were approximately 100 Palestinians and 20 internationals present. Upon arrival in the fields near the settlement, soldiers surrounded the demonstrators and shot multiple teargas canisters at the crowd. The procession continued to protest for an hour and then ended the demonstration.
No arrests or injuries were reported.
On Tuesday, August 18th, two MPTers visited the Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Jenin is the northernmost Governorate in the West Bank. The city of Jenin has approximately 120,000 residents while the Refugee Camp has just over 18,000 people. The story of the Freedom Theatre starts with an Israeli woman named Arna Mer-Khamis who was married to Saliba Khamis, a Palestinian man from Nazareth. In 1988 Arna came to Jenin and began working with Palestinian youth from the Refugee Camp giving acting lessons. According to the Freedom Theatre’s website, Arna wanted to give the children a space to work through the trauma they experienced because of the ongoing conflict. Because of her work she received the Alternative Peace Prize in 1993 and used the money to build a theatre in the Camp.
The first theatre, the Stone Theatre, was destroyed in 2002 during the Israeli army invasion of the Jenin Refugee Camp. In the midst of the Second Intifada the Israeli army sought to crush the armed resistance in the Camp and in the process destroyed half of its housing units and other buildings, including the theatre. They brought in large bulldozers and leveled buildings without warning. Some of those killed during the invasion were former acting students of Arna’s. In 2005 Arna and Saliba’s son Juliano, a then famous actor in Israel, returned to Jenin to begin building a second theatre known as the Freedom Theatre.
There is a specific program for the younger children where they are able to work through their trauma by acting out scenarios that they have lived through. In a culture where “the streets are for the boys,” acting classes also provide girls in the Camp with a safe space to express themselves as well as come together outside of their homes. Both boys and girls in the theatre’s promotional video specifically mentioned that the Freedom Theatre has given them new opportunities for their future.
The Freedom Theatre has just concluded its first year of post-secondary acting school. Currently there are 9 students, 2 of which are women, in the school. It is the only acting school in the northern West Bank and one of its productions, Fragments of Palestine, is scheduled to tour in Europe in the coming months.
The theatre in Jenin is one example of how Palestinians are resisting Israel’s cultural occupation. People who work and/or participate in the Freedom Theatre believe that a third intifada is coming, a nonviolent uprising which should use art and culture to create social change.
To visit the Freedom Theatre’s website: http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/
Two MPTers returned to the
MPT returned to occupied
MPT joined Palestinians, Israeli activists, and other internationals in front of the Hanoun home. Upon arrival at the home demonstrators noticed hired security officers stationed inside the gates of the occupied homes. Settlers stood in the gate and on top of the roof laughing at the demonstrators and one settler danced in rhythm to the protestors’ chants, led by 3 Palestinian women. Protestors displayed signs created by the Hanoun, Al-Ghawi family and other residents of Sheikh Jarrah. One police officer and 4 Israeli soldiers were present at the demonstration.
Settlers watch the demonstration from the Hanoun house
After demonstrating in front of the Hanoun home for approximately 35 minutes the leader of a local Palestinian committee asked protestors to proceed to the Al-Ghawi home. More hired security was present at the Al-Ghawi home and settlers occupying the Hanoun home came down to the Al-Ghawi home. After 25 minutes in front of the Al-Ghawi home the committee leaders thanked protestors for their presence and announced that a similar action would take place the following week. After the demonstration formally ended some dialogue was exchanged in Hebrew between the occupying settlers and the Israeli activists. Sheikh Nasser, one of the evicted Palestinians, spoke at length with an Jewish American tourist, explaining the situation in Sheikh Jarrah.
Following the protest MPTers were approached by a Palestinian man living in Sheikh Jarrah whose family is next in line to be evicted. This man goes between the Hanoun and Al-Ghawi family daily to stand in solidarity with them as his family faces a similar situation. He further explained to MPT that he thinks
A hired security officer stands guard as he allows settlers into the Al-Ghawi home
Sheikh Nasser speaking with a Jewish American tourist
On Sunday the former Governor of Arkansas and possible 2012 Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, joined Israeli settlers and their supporters for a dinner in
Picture of Huckabee on his trip (courtesy of Haaretz)
To read about Huckabee’s visit in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz visit:
For the full New York Times article visit:
Michigan Peace Team was invited to a demonstration outside the
(Qalqiliya area. Click to enlarge)
(Close-up of 'Azzun 'Atma area)
MPTers joined around 25 Palestinian activists and 3 Israelis near the checkpoint into ‘Azzun ‘Atma to protest the increased restriction of movement for Palestinians living inside and around the village. Palestinians gave speeches, some of which were directed at the soldiers who had come out of the checkpoint once the demonstration began. Soldiers drove their jeep out of the checkpoint, parking it in the road and making it harder for cars to enter the village. During the protest, soldiers told one of the demonstration leaders that the action was obstructing traffic for people entering the checkpoint. The Palestinian man replied that the action may be obstructing traffic for 5 or 10 minutes, but the checkpoint has been obstructing it for 2 years.
(Checkpoint into the village with an illegal Israeli settlement in the back.)
(Soldiers complained that the demonstration was disrupting traffic into the checkpoint.)
Villagers of ‘Azzun ‘Atma do not normally joined the demonstration outside their village for fear of reprisal, such as having their Jerusalem permits taken away. Many depend on access to
(Soldiers stood across from the demonstration for the duration of the action.)
(click to enlarge this map of the area)
In addition to the individual problems villagers of Azzun face, there are also a number of issues the village faces as a whole because of the occupation.
The illegal settlements surrounding the village, Zufin to the northwest, Alfe Menashe to the west and Ma’ale Shomerom to the east have created a number of problems. The sewage and garbage from the illegal settlements have polluted Azzun’s water tables.
In addition to Azzun, the nearby village of ‘Izbat at Tabib is under threat of losing half of its residents’ homes (23 out of 45 homes are scheduled to be demolished). The suspected reason for the demolitions in ‘Izbat at Tabib and Azzun, is the construction of an Israeli-only road which would connect the surrounding settlements to each other and to
On Thursday, 6 August 2009, three MPTers were called shortly before midnight because the Israeli military had entered Kifl Haris, a village near the illegal Israeli settlement Ari’el. A family from Kifl Haris requested MPT be present Thursday night because they feared settlers would enter the village and cause violence.
MPT arrived at 12:40am where they were met by Israeli soldiers who questioned MPT’s presence in the village and warned the team that they should be off the streets before 1:00am because settlers were coming to the village to pray. Kifl Haris is the site of three ancient tombs to which religious pilgrimages are periodically made. MPT was informed that Jewish pilgrims come to pray at these specific tombs three to four times a year, sometimes bringing as many as 4,000 pilgrims into the village during the night. The last few times violence has broken out when settlers have come to pray. More specifically, settlers have thrown rocks at Palestinians, burned their cars, and one time shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian girl. The family explained to MPT how they live in constant fear of violence from the settlers.
Approximately 200 religious Jews entered the village around 1:30am, making their way through the streets toward the tombs. Dozens of soldiers positioned themselves along the route of the pilgrimage and drove throughout the village. The pilgrims finished by 4:00am and the soldiers left the village around 5:00am.
No injuries or arrests occurred to MPT’s knowledge.
MPT first met with a man whose brother was arrested two days prior when the Israeli Army invaded the village and arrested him in the middle of the night. The man has not been charged with any crimes but remains in jail. From Azzun alone 82 individuals have been arrested, with an increased number of arrested in the past 9 years. Twenty of those arrested were under 19 years old at the time of their arrest and of the total number arrested 17 individuals have not yet seen a judge or been sentenced.
Next MPTers met with a woman who was released from jail 10 days prior after 3 years in prison. The woman was arrested two weeks after the Israeli Army killed her brother. Her activism in a local woman's group as well as her brothers' resistance were given as reasons for her arrest during her interrogation. Following her arrest in
Initially she was taken to a prison for Israeli criminals, rather than a woman's political prison, where she was harassed and mistreated by other prisoners and felt that her life was in danger. She was interrogated for 14 days straight, without food, access to a bathroom or sleep. After the first week of refusing to talk she was beaten by male officers. After one month in the prison she went on an 8-day hunger strike, demanding to be transferred to a female political prison. While in the political prisons she subsequently went on many hunger strikes as she was denied a mattress to sleep on and other hygiene items. She objected to her treatment citing International Humanitarian Law and was eventually given some of the items she demanded. While in prison the only person allowed to visit her was her young daughter who was a year and a half old at the time of her arrest.
The women she was in prison with ranged in age from 14 to 45 years old. The young women were not schooled by the prison so the prisoners organized themselves into different academic subjects in order to provide the education for the younger girls. Whenever the women demanded better conditions based on International Law they were met by the authorities with beatings, teargas in their cells, and solitary confinement. One woman was arrested while pregnant and gave birth to her son in jail. Over a year later she and her young son are both still living in the prison.
She embroidered this artwork while in prison
The last visit MPT made in Azzun was with the family of
Nasser's body was held for 4 days in
A picture of Nasser hanging in his family's living room
Two MPTers returned to the village of Bil'in Wednesday night to join several other international activists and Palestinians in their efforts to resist the occupation. MPT has been to Bil'in many times, but was called back to the village because two nights prior, the Israeli Forces came into and raided the village of Bil'in, arresting a total of 7 Palestinians and damaging several Palestinian homes. While MPT stayed the night in Bil'in, they sat on roof tops to keep an eye on the Israeli roads, watching for Israeli military vehicles heading towards Bil'in. They also patrolled on foot, looking for soldiers hiding behind trees as they sometimes do prior to incursions. While MPT was there, no Israeli Forces entered the village.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
At 8:00 am an MPTer went with Palestinians and other internationals to accompany Abu Jabber Soleiby and his family to his land in Saffa, near the illegal Bat Ayin settlement, between
After the farmers had been in the valley for about an hour harvesting their first grapes of the year, one Israeli military jeep arrived between the settlement and the Palestinian agricultural land.
First Israeli Army Jeep Arrives
The farmers, satisfied with their small collection of grapes, decided to head back to the village.
Heading Back to the Village
After returning to the edge of the Palestinian village, well away from the illegal Israeli settlement that has been the source of violence in the area, the Palestinians and internationals were stopped by approximately 15 Israeli soldiers who blocked their return to Saffa.
Soldiers asked what the internationals were doing with the farmers in the valley, insisting that soldiers were always there in the past to protect the farmers when the Bat Ayin settlers came to harass them. Abu Jabber Soleiby showed his scars and bruises from previous settler attacks in rebuttal, and insisted that when settlers and soldiers were both present without internationals during past attacks, soldiers protected the settlers, not the Palestinians.
Abu Jabber Talks with Soldiers
After threatening two internationals with arrest and 20 minutes of negotiation, the soldiers allowed the farmers and their supporters to continue into the village.
Soldiers Allow Farmers to Pass with their Grapes
MPT was informed that just over three weeks ago, settlers set fire to hundreds of valuable fruit and olive trees on this Palestinian land. Combined with the cutting of over 125 trees in June and an earlier fire, settlers from Bat Ayin settlement have destroyed nearly all of the land that provides income for 125 extended family members of Abu Jabber, Hamad, and Abdullah Soleiby.
International and Israeli accompaniment of farmers in Saffa has been necessary to prevent violent attacks by settlers on the elderly farmers of the Soleiby family. Farmers have come under attack on several occasions in the past four months while attempting to farm in the valley on their own, including an attack in April that left 81-year-old Abdullah Soleiby with a cracked skull.
Three MPTers joined the Hanoun and al-Ghawi families along with Palestinians, internationals and Israeli activists outside of the Hanoun home the night of their eviction in order to protest the forced removal of 53 people from their homes. The demonstration lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes during which time internationals, Palestinians and Israeli activists were arrested and injured.
The Hanoun’s house was blocked off by a police barricade of 30 Israeli border police and 3 Israeli police officers. Settlers occupying the house sat on the front steps videotaping demonstrators. Other settlers drove through the demonstration yelling at the protestors while one settler stood in the middle of the street snapping pictures of the demonstrators.
During the demonstration one police officer ordered the border police to arrest internationals first. The border police and police officers formed a line and started walking towards the protestors, at which time demonstrators linked arms in solidarity. The police appeared to randomly select on international activist from International Solidarity Movement to arrest. While soldiers pulled on the individual’s arms and legs from opposite directions MPTers along with other internationals, Israeli activists and Palestinians struggled to de-arrest the individual. The border police pushed the demonstrators away and eventually arrested the ISM member. Although the police arrested an international as a scare tactic demonstrators did not leave the area.
An hour and a half into the demonstration a Rabbi came to the home in order to give his blessing to the occupying settlers. Half and hour later the Israeli forces declared the area a closed military zone and threatened to arrest everyone in 5 minutes. Approximately 10 demonstrators, including 3 MPTers, sat nonviolently across the street from the home, linking arms in solidarity with one another. One MPTer was sitting arm in arm with an Israeli activist who said, “they [the police and border police] do not have enough space in their van to arrest us all, so they’ll arrest some of us and beat the rest of us.” Shortly after this comment border police charged the demonstrators where they sat, pulling at individuals in an attempt to arrest them. Border police also prevented videographers and photographers from documenting the arrests and beatings.
MPT struggled to interposition themselves between soldiers who were punching a man in the head and choking him with a banner that read “Solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah”. One Palestinian man was pulled into the air by his neck and then thrown onto the ground, where the border police continued to beat him. The border police pushed MPT and others away from the scene, trying to disperse the crowd. When the police had taken away the people they decided to arrest, MPTers were pushed down the road by a female officer. Although MPTers told her that they were leaving she continued to push them. Although the border police attempted to arrest all three MPT members, no one from MPT was arrested and the injuries they sustained were minor in comparison to others’.
The Israeli Soldiers approaching the demonstrators
Two MPTers hold a banner during the demonstration
A video of the demonstration is available on YouTube