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Nov 23, 2016

#ICareAboutPeace - how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing

Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing
Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing

Dear Friend,

We've done so much good work that over these next few days, I am sending you three separate updates: 

  1. #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing
  2. #HeresMyVillage — what it will mean to see Palestinian Villages on Google Maps and Apple Maps
  3. #Save_UmAlHiran coalition stops demolitions!  Reminder: Giving Tuesday starts Monday night 9pm Pacific

                           #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing

On Nov. 15th 2016, the Government of Israel filed a formal request to the High Court of Israel to delay comment on the fate of the Palestinian village of Susiya.   Noting the delay, on Nov. 18th,  Senator Diane Feinstein (my Senator) published her remarkable letters to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with his replies. 

"Following my letter of July 28, 2015, I was pleased and grateful for your letter of August 11, 2015, in which you stated your government’s commitment to a negotiated resolution with the residents of Susiya," wrote Senator Feinstein. "Since then, I have met with two families from the village, both with young children. The children directly conveyed what peace means to them. It was simple: that no one tear down their homes."

So much of what Senator Feinstein brought forward came through Rebuilding Alliance.  In May of 2015, when the High Court of Israel ruled they could be demolished even before their appeal was heard, Rebuilding Alliance jumped forward to bring religious historian Prof. Ophir Mintz Manor to Congress to press for intervention to keep Susiya standing.  Ophir is a friend of Palestinian Susiya and a member of Villages Group. To date, we've brought 4 more speaking groups and held 127 briefings and meetings with Congressional staff to keep Susiya, Um Al Kheir, Al Aqaba and Palestinian villages standing in Area C as a crisis in demolitions continues.

Today, there was breakthrough: bulldozers were expected in Umm Al Hiran in Israel -- and the bulldozers did not show up!  Rebuilding Alliance is part of the Four Villages Coalition to good effect -- all the tweets, the many visitors and officials who stayed over —  it worked!  Yet success is fleeting because they can come any time before Dec. 1st.   What's more, decisions are expected re. Susiya and Umm al Kheir in early December.  To sustain momentum in our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages, we ask your help.

Please mark your calendar for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific time when GlobalGiving is providing a bonus of 50% for each donation up to $1000.   

How did Senator Feinstein's concern take root?   On September 21st, International Peace Day, and for the second year in a row, Rebuilding Alliance brought Palestinian children and parents to speak to Congress.  Once again, Senator Feinstein met with the chidren personally, put them in her chair, and promised to do all she can to keep their villages standing.  

Our delegation came from Susiya and Umm al Kheir, West Bank villages slated for demolition. They met with Congressional offices, held talks at American University, a gradeschool, and a kindergarten, sold handicrafts from Susiya — and held a Senate briefing!   They described daily life at constant risk of one's home being bulldozed. The children have been making Pinwheels for Peace as part of an international project, together with their classmates, writing what peace means to them and drawing what it looks like. Aysar, a 15-year-old from Susiya, wrote (and memorized!) a speech and bravely delivered it to the 80 people in attendance.

"This is what Peace means to me," said Aysar. "Peace is one of the names of God. Peace, Salaam, Shalom is the word we use to say hello. Peace means safety, freedom, liberty and justice. But the people of Susiya, my people, face real problems in this Occupation. People attack us and want to expel us from our land. When children go to school it is dangerous. We ask you to continue to help us."

In each of her letters, Senator Feinstein asks Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt demolitions and reevaluate the master planning process by which Palestinian villages are legalized and protected.  She has our deepest thanks, and we are honored to have her encouragement and her action to stop the nightmare of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes. However, we must do more. The heartbreaking reality is that this year, 2016, has seen more demolitions of Palestinian homes than any year in the last 10 years.

Through your support, we have found a champion for the recognition of Palestinian villages in Senator Feinstein and her efforts are inspiring many more.  With your help, we will keep working to rally Congressional support for the human right to live in one's home, to assure the safety and very existence of the hundreds of Palestinian villages at risk of demolition. 

Please set your alarm for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific Time and give generously.
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Aysar
Aysar's presentation at the Senate Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
And then we went to the zoo!
And then we went to the zoo!

Links:

Jul 6, 2016

At long last, we've received permission to file full applications for Political Risk Insurance

Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?
Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?

Dear Friend,

After years of asking, Rebuilding Alliance is being granted permission to file full applications for Political Risk Insurance (PRI) to finance Palestinian construction, water delivery, and agricultural projects in the West Bank's Area C.  Despite the very real political risks facing Palestinian construction and agriculture in the 62% of the West Bank administered by Israel called 'Area C', until now, everyone has been blocked from applying for PRI.  However, following our meeting in May with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, we now have a green light to proceed.

According to OPIC, their insurance - combined with their financing options - allows U.S. businesses (including nonprofit organizations) to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets, mitigating risk and helping them compete in a global marketplace. OPIC insurance provides innovative, comprehensive, and cost-effective risk-mitigation products to cover losses to tangible assets, investment value, and earnings that result from political perils including political violence and expropriation.  

With PRI, Rebuilding Alliance hopes to attract investment and donations at a much higher scale so to offer revolving loans to Palestinian villages,  women's associations, farmers' cooperatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations — including international NGOs — for their building of affordable housing and women's centers, their establishment of water delivery and irrigation systems, and maybe even for harvesting their olive trees and thereby cover their losses due to settler violence or failure of legal due process. 

Here's the go-ahead we received Mr. Steven L. Johnston, Managing Director, Political & Sovereign Risk in OPIC's Structured Finance & Insurance Department:

     Dear Donna, I have approved the registration for the water pipe project. You should have received a separate
     email this morning to this effect. That email also directs you to OPIC’s online portal for completing the application
     (Form 52). You will need to log in and complete and submit the application. 

Mr. Johnston goes on to write that they are allowing Rebuilding Alliance to file the full application for our Rebuiding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village and he encourages RA to resubmit our preliminary application for the Rural Women's Restaurant project too.

Each application is something similar to a business plan so there's lots of work ahead. I would like to complete 3-4 applications by the end of this month, so to have review, feedback and yes, approval, before September 21st.  That's International Peace Day, the day when our delegation of Palestinian children will be addressing Congress with their Pinwheels for Peace.  If the U.S. is to keep their villages standing, let's have the Political Risk Insurance in place for key projects in each of their villages so to offer these children tangible evidence that the U.S. government cares.

Thank you again for your support for our Rebuilding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village.  You believed in us from the start and that support, along with persistence and good advice along the way, opened doors. 

I'll keep you posted as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  There's a lot of work ahead and no guarantee of success.  However, with the Peace Process in shambles, this tangible effort to help Palestinian families hold on to their homes and land by enlisting insurance companies in their recovery feels worth the effort.  As James Thurber once said, "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
World Bank
World Bank's Multilateral Investmt. Guaran. Agency

Links:

Jun 14, 2016

Palestinian planning rights

Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank
Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank

Dear Friend,

We are back in the office after a busy week of meetings on Capitol Hill. From May 23rd through 27th, we met with 25 Congressional offices, running back and forth across the Capitol between the Senate and House office buildings. We also met with a member of the National Security Council (an advisor to President Obama), the State Department, and more, speaking about Palestinian planning rights. We were joined by Dr. Ahmad El-Atrash, a Senior Planner at UN-Habitat in Ramallah. He is an expert in the master planning process for Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank, and all the complex legal proceedings that are involved in it.

We described the shocking and disturbing upswing in demolitions since the beginning of 2016, and why it is ocurring. Many of the Congressional staffers we met with shared our concern and assured us they would speak with their boss about how they could join us in advocating for Palestinian planning rights. 

There was a possibility that a senior Senator would sponsor a Dear Colleague letter that we drafted. The letter called for intervention to prevent the demolition of Al Aqaba Village's water network, to assure due process for Umm al Kheir, to press for recognition of Palestinian master plans and to recognize Palestine's regional planning committees in the master plan approval process.  As it stands, only three of 108 submitted master plans have been approved in the past six years. The plans are technically sound, and several have already passed the period of public comment. There is no reason why these plans should not be approved so that building permits can be issued and construction can begin in accordance with zoning. Israel's apparent plans to expand and establish new settlements on private land, and ultimately annex the West Bank, are blocking their approval of Palestinian master plans.

Representative Eshoo's senior staffer told us that one major problem is that many in Congress have forgotten that the Israeli settlements are illegal. These illegal settlements and outposts are pushing Palestinian families off the land that they rightfully own, and are doing so largely without reproach from members of Congress or the international community. She asked us to press President Obama to exert his leadership on this issue and so we did when we met with senior staff at the National Security Council the next day.  

We asked each Congressional office that we visited to call the Israeli Embassy and the State Department and urge them to do all they can to: 

1)    Assure Palestinian villages their right to critical services, especially water and electricity and express concern that ‘Stop Work Orders’ have been issued against the water main network that will connect Al Aqaba village, in Area C near Tubas, to the Palestinian water grid. Al Aqaba is a model of peace under the leadership of Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih. They have been barred by the Israeli Army from digging their own wells and in January 2016, the High Court of Israel agreed to hear their petition to connect their village with water. 

2)   Restore due process to assure Palestinian families and villages the right to appeal demolition orders in Israeli courts instead of blocking their petitions from reaching the courts as recently occurred in the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir.

3)    Approve the 108 master zoning plans filed by Palestinian communities to date, starting with the eight master plans that have completed the period for public comment.

While in Washington, DC, we also spoke with OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) and the World Bank's MIGA group (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) about the possibility of obtaining political risk insurance for Palestinian communities. We were happy to learn that crops can be insured- imagine, an insurance fund for Palestinian olive trees, and World Bank and OPIC insurers fully engaged to prevent destruction and demolition.  Remarkably, after years of being blocked, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is now inviting Rebuilding Alliance to go ahead and complete full applications for construction projects in Area C, including water pipes.

Overall, it was a very successful (albeit exhausting) trip. A staffer told us that walking the halls of Congress is the most effective way to advocate. He said that his office is frequently visited by right-wing lobbyists who speak for the Israeli settler movement, but rarely by advocates for Palestinian rights. Nothing will change unless more of us speak up and show up so that Congress knows we care.

I am beginning work now to schedule our next two speaking tours this fall, and for that I ask your help. Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15th, GlobalGiving is matching all donations to the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. They are matching donations by 50% up to $1,000!  

With your help, Rebuilding Alliance will bring Palestinian children to Congress for International Peace Day in September. We're asking President Obama to meet with them and use their visit bring his leadership forward to keep their villages standing. In addition, in October, we're bringing Palestinian planners on tour to speak at university architecture departments, and join peace groups for visits to local Congressional offices.

Thanks for staying tuned while we were running around Washington, and a special thanks to those who donated frequent flier miles. An extra special thanks to those who called their Senators and Representative to ask them to make those two calls! 

Best,

Tamsin

 

P.S. You'll see that we're increasing our engagement in the international "Pinwheels for Peace" project. Attached is our intern Lamia's report on her experience making Pinwheels for Peace with the girls at Al-Isawiya School. 

A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
At Rep. Eshoo
At Rep. Eshoo's office w Hannah Murphy, Kyle FCNL
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Selfie in Congress
Selfie in Congress
A silver lining, a US flag
A silver lining, a US flag
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year's time

Links:


Attachments:
 
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