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Urgent ACTION ALERT for our GAZA TEAM Dec 25-Jan 2, 2010

Please see the GAZA TEAM BLOG at MPTinGAZA.blogspot.com.

To: All of our Friends and Readers

From: MPT by Sheri Wander
MPT President, Nonviolence Trainer and
Member of our 2009 Gaza Freedom March Team- departing in just a few days

Thanks to all of you who have offered your support (emotionally, spiritually, financially...) and well wishes for our team to Gaza. I must again ask for your help.

ACTION REQUESTED: Can you send a fax, an email or make a phone call to the following authorities help break the blockade of Gaza?

Contact your local consulate here:
Contact the Palestine Division in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cairo
Ahmed Azzam, tel +202-25749682 Email: ahmed.azzam@mfa.gov.eg
In the U.S., contact the Egyptian Embassy, 202-895-5400 and ask for Omar Youssef or email omaryoussef@hotmail.com

(Also, see a simple sample letter below.)
MORE INFORMATION: Using the pretext of escalating tensions on the Gaza-Egypt border, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry yesterday informed those traveling to Gaza for the Freedom March that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks, into January. We responded that there is always tension at the border because of the siege, that we do not feel threatened, and that if there are any risks, they are risks we are willing to take. We also said that it was too late for over 1,300 delegates coming from over 42 countries to change their plans now.
This is frustrating, but not entirely unexpected: no delegation, large or small, that entered Gaza over the past 12 months has ever received a final OK before arriving at the Rafah border. Most delegations were discouraged from even heading out of Cairo to Rafah. Some had their buses stopped on the way. Some have been told outright that they could not go into Gaza. But after public and political pressure, the Egyptian government changed its position and let them pass.

My efforts and plans will not be altered at this point. But I need your help! Public Pressure does work!

Those of us who are going on this historic march have set out to break the siege of Gaza and march on December 31 against the Israeli blockade. We are continuing in the same direction.
Egyptian embassies and missions all over the world must hear from us and our supporters (by phone, fax and email)** over the coming crucial days, with a clear message: Let the international delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed.

Again, here's what you can do to help:

Contact your local consulate here:
Contact the Palestine Division in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cairo
Ahmed Azzam, tel +202-25749682 Email: ahmed.azzam@mfa.gov.eg
In the U.S., contact the Egyptian Embassy, 202-895-5400 and ask for Omar Youssef or email omaryoussef@hotmail.com

Thanks friends!

In Peace and Solidairity,

Dear [ ],
I am writing/calling to express my full support for the December 31, 2009 Gaza Freedom March. I urge the Egyptian government to allow the 1,300 international delegates to enter the Gaza Strip through Egypt.
The aim of the march is to call on Israel to lift the siege. The delegates will also take in badly needed medical aid, as well as school supplies and winter jackets for the children of Gaza.
Please, let this historic March proceed.
Thank you.

Your Name (and where you reside, if you wish to add this).


MPT Gaza Team Dec 27-Jan 1, 2010 for Freedom March

Remember our friends in Gaza this Holiday Season,
and check our blog at
regularly for updates from our team.

Six Michigan residents, members of Michigan Peace Team, are preparing to travel to Gaza and take part in the Gaza Freedom March. Over 1,000 participants from countries around the world, and more than 50,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are expected to join the December 31, 2009 march inside Gaza.

This march is a historic initiative to demand that the borders of Gaza are opened, ending the siege that has imprisoned the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza. It is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Great Salt March, Martin Luther King’s civil rights actions in the United States, and the nonviolent efforts of Palestinians over the years.

Dorothy Ritter says “I believe in the power of non-violent resistance in the face of inhumanity. I stand in loving solidarity with the people of Gaza and the international community to join the demand for justice and human rights. .."


Contact us at: Nicoler.mpt@gmail.com if you are interested in supporting our team by volunteering to host a speaking engagement when they return, donating funds, or finding other ways to show your support.

For more information from CODE PINK, who organize hundreds of activists for this March, click here: GAZA FEEDOM MARCH- CODE PINK WEBSITE.

Also- read about MPT's participation at our website: http://www.michiganpeaceteam.org/Gaza_Freedom_March.htm.

Thank You WB Teams 2009, and Newsletter

Thank You MPT WB Team Members- and especially our Anchors!

Thank you to every volunteer who went to Palestine/Israel with Michigan Peace Team this year, and all of our friends at home and abroad that make our teams possible. It was a very successful year for MPT as we continue to expand our program in this region and beyond. We look forward to the day when our third party nonviolence work is unnecessary, and we can visit simply as friends.

Now that all team members are home until after the new year, we continue to plan our teams for 2010 and beyond. For more information, CLICK HERE to read our December Teams Insider News, or read our welcome newsletter with basic information about applying, training, budget and more. Anyone committed to nonviolence, teamwork, and our vision can be a member of an MPT Team.


Nicole Rohrkemper
International Teams Coordinator
Michigan Peace Team



Team Safe on the way home!

The team has contacted us to let us know they are all safely on their way home. It looks like all have cleared customs, and should arrive at their destinations as scheduled.

Thanks to the fall team for all their hard work and commitment!

Watch for updates on our 2010 teams soon.


Settler Harassment and a Closed Checkpoint Mar Start of Eid

Thursday, November 26, was Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. In Palestine it was the day before the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha. Eid al Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, marks the end of the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, and also commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Traditionally, gifts are given and a cow, goat or sheep is killed and shared with family, friends and the needy. The holiday lasts three or four days, depending on the country. This holiday is akin to Christmas in the United States. (See http://islam.about.com/od/hajj/a/adha.htm)

Three MPTers and two international guests were preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, when three other invited internationals called to say that Huwwara checkpoint just north of the village of Huwwara, on the main road into Nablus, was closed to outbound traffic. The service they were riding had had to take a back road through Awarta checkpoint. Between the extra holiday traffic, the detour and the heightened security at Awarta, what should have been a 15 minute trip from Nablus to Huwwara had taken over an hour. MPTers were also told that there were two army jeeps on the main road in the center of Huwwara. The three MPTers and two guests went to observe what was happening at the town intersection, while the other internationals continued back to observe at Huwwara checkpoint.

Approaching Huwwara Checkpoint from Nablus,
photo taken a different day.

Two jeeps were parked on the main road in Huwwara, and the soldiers were directing traffic, an incredible amount of both Palestinian and Israeli cars, the latter a rarity in Huwwara. (Palestinian and Israeli cars can be distinguished by the color of their license plates: green, Palestinian; yellow, Israeli.) It was difficult to tell if the soldiers were facilitating the flow of traffic, which was disrupted by people’s need to take an alternate route from Nablus, or if they were randomly preventing people from continuing south on the main road. At various times, different MPTers perceived the situation differently. The group decided to split with some staying in Huwwara to keep watch on the soldiers’ activities and the rest going up to Huwwara checkpoint, from where the internationals had called to say that settler youth were attacking Palestinian cars.

The group arrived to discover many Palestinian cars pulled off alongside the road, hoping the checkpoint would open to allow them into Nablus. MPTers were told by Palestinians that the settlers had been throwing stones at Palestinian cars, and this was confirmed by the internationals who also said the settler youth had been banging on Palestinian cars and spitting on the Palestinians. The internationals also said the soldiers were yelling at and pointing their guns at Palestinians who had gotten out of their cars to see what was happening. The MPTers saw a group of 15-20 teenage settlers, both male and female, much closer to the closed checkpoint than the soldiers permitted the internationals (the use of the term internationals will now include MPTers in the remainder of this blog) to position themselves. Upon seeing the influx of internationals, the settler youth started to walk aggressively towards them. The soldiers positioned themselves between the two groups and walked towards the teens, forcing them back to where they had been.

The soldiers then ordered the internationals to move behind one of the jeeps, which they refused to do as they would then have been a considerable distance from the checkpoint, not been able to see events occurring, and not been able to intervene expeditiously should a problem arise. Moreover, as they told the soldiers, they were not the problem and the soldiers should focus on the settler youth and keep them from attacking Palestinians. When asked why the settler teens were not ordered to leave, the soldiers gave no clear answer but said Israeli police would be arriving with a van to take them back to the settlement. Eventually the Israeli police arrived but the teens were not ordered onto the van. At times the soldiers’ aggressiveness seemed more aimed at the internationals than at the settler youth, as though they had to demonstrate their authority to someone since the settlers enjoy virtual free rein.

About this time the settler teen-age girls started hitting and shoving the soldiers. While the soldiers did at times put out their hands to stop them and push back, it was without any significant force and just enough to get the girls back on the curb. Several of the teens then sat down in the street to force passing cars to veer around them.

Settler youth sitting in the street in an attempt to block traffic.

When the internationals had begun taking pictures, several of the settler youth held up their hands and ordered “No pictures.” They were ignored. Later, one of the young men came over to talk to some of the internationals. He said among other things that his parents are both from the United States, that Israel does not need any money from the United States, that he does not care about international law concerning the illegality of settlements, and that all the land belongs to the Jews. He related what he would like to do to Arabs if he had a knife and the opportunity, while calling all Arabs a word that does not bear repeating.

The young man who told internationals not to take pictures.

When the checkpoint re-opened, Nablus-bound traffic slowed as it passed the police jeep in the road. A group of about seven teenage settler girls stood at that point, yelling at and kicking passing cars. The soldiers and police made only occasional attempts to stop them. The internationals stood maybe twenty yards away, taking pictures and filming. A little later the settlers started towards the internationals, yelling at them in Hebrew. The soldiers finally came and directed them back.

Young settler women standing where cars slowed down in order to pass the police jeep, a good location for kicking the cars.

After about three hours, the settler youth began hitching rides to their settlement, and left the area in small groups. When most of them were gone, most of the internationals left as well, with two of the men staying to see the last of the settlers leave. Unfortunately, the military and police also left, and the remaining two internationals later said they had been shoved by the remaining youth, called names – gay, Nazi, anarchist -- and threatened with death.

It seems probable that the closed checkpoint was timed to disrupt the Palestinian holiday, just another of the many harassments and humiliations that accompany the Occupation. A Palestinian activist who had gone from Bethlehem to Jenin early Thursday seemed to confirm this supposition as he found the road closed when he went to return home. MPTers also read about other checkpoint closures and delays on that day. Moreover, on the last day of the three day celebration, the Qalandia checkpoint to Jerusalem was closed for a time, creating a terrible backup of traffic as Palestinians were making their way home.

It’s not uncommon for Israeli soldiers and police to at least allow if not also participate in settler violence against Palestinians. The MPTers heard speculation that the settlers were angry about Netanyahu’s recent announcement of a ten month partial settlement freeze. It should be noted that this freeze will only affect new settlement homes in the West Bank. Public buildings, homes and buildings already under construction, and settler homes in East Jerusalem will continue to be built (see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1130636.html).

As the MPTers and their international guests finally gathered for a very late Thanksgiving dinner, they reflected on what would happen to Palestinian youth who tried similar tactics. Undoubtedly, they would be beaten, arrested, possibly shot. The evening’s events also raised the question: What are the consequences for the future of Israeli society when its settler youth can flaunt their arrogance and disdain with such impunity?