Monday, June 6, 2011

Holy Land Trust Involved in Sunday's Protest

Hello Friend,

This morning I sent you the introductory piece on Sami Awad's Holy Land Trust.

Turns out it was his group that called for "nonviolent action" on Naksa Day (yesterday), presumably at all borders. There were 25 killed at the Syrian border with 350 injured. Israel (and US) are desperate to claim self-defense, but I find no evidence that protesters tried to breach the borders, only to go up to them nonviolently.

Below is the essence of a June 2 article prior to yesterday, detailing how the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was preparing to deal with "nonviolent" protesters.

You will not be pleased with the description. The latter half of the article tells of Sami's work in mobilizing Palestinians to go up to the borders WITH NO WEAPONS, and nonviolently protest against the occupation, trying to guard "borders" that have not even been declared to be borders of the Jewish state.

Pray for protection of those seeking to nonviolently protest occupation forces, forces that are trying to seal the theft of Palestinian land and rights. JRK

Killing Them Softly?

Arieh O'Sullivan
The Media Line (Opinion)
June 2, 2011 - 12:00am

“Here’s what they did,” says the commander of an Israeli reserve combat company deployed in the northern West Bank. “They [military higher-ups] dumped on us thousands of rounds of rubber bullets, cases of stun grenades and tear gas and that’s it. That’s the great Israeli army doctrine on how to cope with this Naksa.”

“God help us if [the Palestinians] start staging a non-violent march our way,” the officer told The Media Line, on condition he not be identified.

If there is anything that generates fear in the Israeli army beyond a surprise attack, it is the prospect of facing unarmed demonstrators. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was made to fight wars, and is uncomfortable confronting unarmed civilians.

But that’s just what Palestinians are planning for this Sunday. Grassroots activists working through the social media are calling people to come out and stage a mass assault on Israel’s borders to mark Naksa day, which commemorates what they call the “setback” of the 1967 Six Day War and Israel’s seizure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. . . .

The IDF Spokesman declines all requests to interview officers on non-lethal weapons and declined to allow reporters to examine how the IDF was, or wasn’t, preparing its troops for non-violent protests. While the IDF has trained its forces to flight low intensity conflicts, which are combat situations in a non-battlefield environment, it has been notoriously slow in using “less-than-lethal” weapons and only provides its troops with rudimentary riot-control training.

But, in the Central Command, a senior officer told The Media Line that they had deployed at key sites the “Skunk” and the “Screamer.” The Skunk is a water cannon that sprays protesters with foul-smelling liquid and the Screamer is a high-wattage acoustic weapon that causes human insides to vibrate to the point that the target turns into a quivering, vomiting, diarrheic mess.

“Our tactic is to contain the non-violent demonstrations and disperse them if they erupt and arrest the instigators with the tools we have at our disposal,” says a senior officer.

“We have a few of the Screamers deployed and the Skunks which fire a foul smelling organic sticky spray that is awful and pretty much makes you want to just stop what you’re doing and get away.”

For years, the IDF and security forces around the world have been seeking a politically correct tool that would stop demonstrators without seriously harming them. The IDF likes to point out that there is no silver bullet exists that incapacitates protest-hardened demonstrators.

Some projects on the drawing board include a flashing red light that sends anyone gazing at it into an epileptic fit, or bees that become highly aggressive when sprayed with a pheromone. The army even developed blank round for tanks that brings the idea of a stun grenade to a higher level. None of these have ever been deployed.

The Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust has been one of the most visible organizations promoting non-violent resistance as a Palestinian weapon. Its founder and executive director Sami Awad acknowledged that Palestinian society has come a long way in shedding the perception that pacifism and non-violence are a sign of weakness in Arab society. Watching the effect of the mass protests of the Arab Spring helped greatly.

Awad says he and his organization were once called traitors and collaborators but that has come full circle and advocacy of non-violence actions has been adopted by both the Fatah and Hamas.

“The Israeli leadership and military see [non-violent resistance] as a nightmare,” Awad told The Media Line. “The Israeli establishment is trying to plant fear in the heart of Israeli society. Just look at the way they presented the marches as an existential threat to Israel.”

Awad worries that non-violent actions will not guarantee that the other side will not use lethal weapons in response. “It’s actually not even a fear, but an expectation,” Awad said.

Palestinian peace activist Hanna Siniora says it took time for the Palestinians to realize this, partly due to what he called the brutal suppression of the Israeli army of the violent second intifada, which broke out in 2000 and saw the large-scale use by Palestinians of suicide bombers and armed attacks.

“Before, Palestinian society wasn’t ready for it, but now the Palestinians are much more aware because of the second intifada and because of its violence ended up doing much more damage than good,” Siniora told the Media Line. “The non-violent demonstrations are bearing fruit. This is a message to the public that it’s the best process.

So I am wondering what REALLY happened yesterday!!!!!! Reports of newly dug trenches have surfaced, marking new lines across which protestors would not be permitted to trespass. And land mines have been set there (admitted by the IDF). Israel seems intent on NOT PERMITTING protesters. It is not permitted to protest. If you protest against our rule, you will be shot, whether you throw stones or not, whether you have guns or not. It makes no difference. We tolerate no dissent. Does this sound like someone in Europe around the time of 1938 - 1945?

What indeed, do you do with nonviolent protesters? JRK

The Nonviolent Way to Go

Dear Friend,

Sami Awad is the son of Bishara Awad, President of Bethlehem Bible College.

The below article appeared in the Huffington Post recently. It articulates the nonviolent approach that is in keeping with Jesus of Nazareth, whom, to follow, is "The Way" to go.

Sami Awad

Executive Director, Holy Land Trust

WWJD? A Non-Violent Conflict Resolution for Palestine

How could a person living under military occupation, experiencing first-hand suffering and humiliation, even think about loving the enemy, let alone urge family, friends and neighbors to do the same? This challenging message came from a young rabbi named Jesus in his "Sermon on the Mount."

Of course, Jesus could have suggested we make peace with our enemies or negotiate peace agreements or peacefully resolve conflict; those statements would have been as shocking to the suffering Jews of that time. Instead, he entreated them to go further: to "love" them. This was the word he chose -- a command to all those who seek to follow him.

I studied history to better understand what life in my homeland was like under Roman occupation. The Jewish people had been displaced and lost their property. Many had been tortured, enslaved and imprisoned. Numerous had died at the hands of their oppressors. Sadly, many Jewish religious and political leaders even compromised and corrupted themselves by their Roman superiors.

In a way, my own history seems to parallel what happened more than 2,000 years ago. Like those hearing Jesus' words for the first time, I too have grown up living under military occupation. I have witnessed suffering and the loss it brings. As a Palestinian, I could share countless stories of brutality and abuse. I could explain how fear and grief can quickly turn into anger and resentment.

However, it may surprise some in the West that I am an Arab who was born into an evangelical Christian family. I expect that my family's "conversion" to Christianity happened thousands of years ago on the day of Pentecost, not through mission work. As a boy growing up in Bethlehem, I went to church every Sunday and to Sunday school every Friday, fully immersed in a faith-based culture no different than a Christian family in Bethlehem, Pa., or Palestine, Texas.

As I was learning Bible stories, my day-to-day reality and experiences were teaching me to become bitter and hateful of Israeli soldiers and all they represented. I knew this was not what my faith, schooling or my family had instructed, but these were the life lessons I was learning.
Everything changed for me in the early 1980s when my uncle returned from the United States to establish the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Bethlehem. Now I found a place to address my resentment and vent my anger. I began participating in many nonviolent activities to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands -- from planting olive trees in threatened areas to participating in children's street festivals with balloons colored like the Palestinian flag. When the Israeli government deported my uncle for his nonviolence efforts, I committed myself to engaging in this important work. I was 16 at the time.

For more than 20 years, I have been studying, practicing and teaching nonviolence both inside and outside of Palestine. I started Holy Land Trust in 1998 to promote the idea that nonviolence can be a path toward peace and a greater humanity in this land we all call Holy. Our organization is made up of Palestinians -- both Christians and Muslims -- who work together to develop awareness campaigns, provide training, organize demonstrations, etc. Our efforts often receive the support of internationals, including a growing number of Israeli Jews.

So while I had grown up knowing about the Sermon on the Mount, living it creates a different meaning and purpose. The first step in loving the enemy is to love and honor myself as a person loved by God, to break free from the fear and hatred within me, and to no longer claim victimization and seek pity as a result of the oppressive forces around me. This takes creating a deep distinction between those who stand before me and their behaviors and recognizing that every human being is created in the image of God. It requires acknowledging that conditions, traditions, experiences, traumas and assumptions can shape who we have become but are not who we truly are and, more importantly, who we can be. It's understanding that our core common identity is in our humanity and not in political, ideological or even religious associations.

As a follower of Jesus, I am compelled to promote a process of healing and liberation for those being oppressed as well as for their oppressors. Loving the enemy means you ultimately eliminate the label of "enemy" and engage in loving action to help them recognize and acknowledge your humanity. This is how to love your enemy, to really love them.