When people think of Palestine and Israel, they often picture Palestinians as suicide bombers and terrorists while the Israeli military are seen as bombing whole neighborhoods in Palestine. The violence and counter-violence and endless war has created a hopelessness about any peaceful future for the Holy Land.
However, during a month-long stay in Palestine and Israel recently, I found something else. I found something very positive and hopeful and perhaps the key to a peaceful resolution of this tragic conflict — and a possible path toward a peaceful future for both peoples.
by David Hartsough
On the first anniversary of the War on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, close to fourteen hundred people from more than 40 countries came to Cairo, Egypt planning to go to Gaza and help end the Siege, a total blockade which began in 2007 and continues today. Unfortunately, under extreme pressure from Israel and perhaps the United States, the Egyptian government did not allow most of us to enter Gaza. However about ninety from the GAZA FREEDOM MARCH did get into Gaza from Dec. 30, 2009-Jan 2, 2010. I was privileged to be part of that group.
By Sherri Maurin (for Jan, Louie, David and myself) — 1/1/2010
It is New Year's Day evening. The moon is really full over Tahrir Square in front of The Mogamma; it is beginning to feel like the Gaza Freedom Marchers' place. We have done nonviolence training there, kicked off the march from points along it's perimeter and across from it, celebrated New Year's Eve and welcomed in a year of greater promise, and closed this phase of the journey together there.
At the closing circle I treasured seeing the chief of police who has followed us throughout the week with hundreds of his young conscripts (who I now affectionately call our "boys in black") enter our large circle, ostensibly to do crowed control; he ended up accepting a proffered cookie, leaving with a smile on his face……Small steps in the path toward world peace and understanding, based on sharing our humanity.
End Israeli Apartheid
The Cairo Declaration of January 1, 2010
We, international delegates meeting in Cairo during the Gaza Freedom March 2009 in collective response to an initiative from the South African delegation, state:
In view of:
- Israel's ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians through the illegal occupation and siege of Gaza;
- the illegal occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the continued construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall and settlements;
- the new Wall under construction by Egypt and the US which will tighten even further the siege of Gaza;
- the contempt for Palestinian democracy shown by Israel, the US, Canada, the EU and others after the Palestinian elections of 2006;
- the war crimes committed by Israel during the invasion of Gaza one year ago;
- the continuing discrimination and repression faced by Palestinians within Israel;
- and the continuing exile of millions of Palestinian refugees;
- all of which oppressive acts are based ultimately on the Zionist ideology which underpins Israel;
- in the knowledge that our own governments have given Israel direct economic, financial, military and diplomatic support and allowed it to behave with impunity;
- and mindful of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (2007)
by John Dear, SJ — 3/17/09 (reprinted with permission)
A delegation of 20 American peacemakers planned to visit the much maligned nation of Iran in late February. Only six received visas. Among these were David Hartsough and Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale. They returned brimming with fondness, hope and heartening stories.
David, the delegation leader, is a long time Quaker peacemaker who worked with the American Friends Service Committee for 18 years and co-founded Nonviolent Peace Force, an international project that places trained nonviolence workers in conflict situations. He currently directs Peaceworkers, an organization that supports nonviolent movements around the world.
Members of the delegation share their reflections on their recent trip to Iran.
In this post are essays by Ann Morrell, Bill Gillen, and Jack Schultz. Ann wrote about what she describes as the highlight of her trip, a connection she made with a group of schoolgirls in Esfahan (see above photo):
We were descending the steps on the way out of the Palace of the Forty Columns in Esfahan. We only saw twenty columns because the large reflecting pool was drained and instead of the shimmering reflection of the twenty columns, we saw workmen patching the sides of the pool. It was a beautiful sunny morning in a lovely park. On the steps were so many teenaged girls talking together in clumps that I surmised they were on a school trip.
Ethan Vesely-Flad on March 5, 2009
Today's news from Capitol Hill highlights an issue of deep concern to those who seek to build stronger relationships between the United States and Iran. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) submitted a proposed amendment to a bill on an omnibus appropriations bill in the Senate. The amendment would prohibit all U.S. agencies from doing business with companies with any business ties to Iran's energy sector. The Friends Committee on National Legislation argued in a summary of a letter that FCNL faxed to every U.S. senator last night:
"Taking action to further cripple Iran's already taxed energy sector punishes the Iranian peopl. More hostile and draconian sanctions undermine the potential for a diplomatic solution to Iran's contested nuclear program and other peace and security concerns."
Submitted by David Hartsough on March 2, 2009
Here's an update from our delegation leader David Hartsough:
Father Louie Vitale and I met with a group of Iranian war veterans from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and a delegation from Hiroshima, Japan. Some of the vets had lost their legs; many had been attacked by the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein against the Iranians and have been suffering the consequences ever since.
There were widows who had lost their husbands, men who could barely see with one eye, people who could not breathe when someone started to smoke, and many from Hiroshima who had lost so many of their relatives and loved ones.
Submitted by Ethan Vesely-Flad on February 28, 2009
Several more reports have arrived in the past 48 hours from the Fellowship of Reconciliation's 9th civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran. Earlier this week, the group flew south from Iran to Shiraz, and they have since traveled to the ancient, mighty ruins of Persepolis as well as the gorgeous city of Esfahan. Delegation leader David Hartsough wrote two short reflections from this city of rivers, known to all Iranians as "half the world." His first, "Don't Bring Your Guns," is both a humorous and political commentary: Continue reading
Submitted by FOR on February 21, 2009
The Fellowship of Reconciliation's ninth peace and civilian diplomacy delegation to Iran arrived safely in Tehran on Thursday, February 19th, 2010. There are six members of this delegation, making it the smallest one to date, as two-thirds of the group were denied visas. FOR is deeply concerned about what we are experiencing as an increasing series of challenges to an already difficult process of obtaining visas for U.S. citizens.