Over the past six months, Rebuilding Alliance has engaged in remarkable advocacy on some of Palestine’s most pressing issues:
20 years of advocacy and a remarkable ‘Rebuilding to Remain’ program paid off in a big way in Al Aqaba. On November 8th the High Court issued a ruling that keeps families in their homes. In October, knowing the decision was coming soon, Rebuilding Alliance held a Virtual Walk-Through of Al Aqaba Village for Hill staffers and constituents to ask for Congressional intervention.The audience was guided by some of Al Aqaba’s teens on a walking tour through the village and to one of the family homes facing demolition orders. That family and their home are now in the clear. The teens showed constituents and Congressional Staff what makes Al Aqaba so special, and also described the challenges of living in an Israeli Military Firing Zone. Their voices were heard, and they are safer as a result.
Since August, the Advocacy Team at RA has also been hard at work on a new campaign: Ensure Americans Fair Entry to Palestine. In response to the Government of Israel codifying a set of discriminatory procedures that will restrict American access to the West Bank, this campaign, in partnership with the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine (AFRP), engaged over 50 Congressional Offices in Contact Congress briefings. We asked Congress to ensure that Americans would be treated fairly and equally when entering the West Bank, and for the State Department to assist Americans facing discrimination. RA endorsed Congressman Don Beyer’s letter to the Secretary of State, and the Congressman and his staff turned to RA to write the final version.
The month of October saw a startling increase of violence in the West Bank, leading the United Nations to make the alarming statement that 2022 was already the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians in over 15 years. The Israeli Military launched repeated incursions into the West Bank, bringing widespread violence and loss of life. Entire Palestinian villages, towns and communities became the victims of collective punishment, being entirely closed off from the rest of the West Bank, which brought incredible suffering across the board and resulted in a humanitarian disaster.
In response to this crisis, Rebuilding Alliance RA organized an emergency Zoom Webinar with the U.N., first for Congressional staff, then 2 days later for constituents. This was the first time the U.N. joined us for Contact Congress briefings, and we were honored to host the acting Humanitarian Coordinator for the West Bank and the acting head of UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt).
The briefing for constituents also presented the opportunity to feature Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights and Al-Haq. Including Al-Haq was especially important, as Rebuilding Alliance continues to #StandWithTheSix. RA urged Congress to intervene, in a positive way, and to call for calm in the West Bank. RA’s work to engage Congress to intervene is all the more necessary now, with the recent Israeli elections bringing the far right back into power.
Rebuilding Alliance continues to advocate for entire villages and communities, seeking intervention from Congress to prevent evictions and demolitions throughout Palestine. RA needs your help to keep responding during this time of crisis. In 2023, we aim to:
As we head towards the end of 2022, RA remains unceasingly committed to advocating for equal rights, safety, and justice for Palestinian Communtites. We greatly appreciate your support!
Donna and the RA Advocacy Team
This past Monday was remarkable:
Rebuilding Alliance has completed over 550 Zoom-briefings since our Contact Congress program began. The is all because of you — thank you!
Why did 4 Senate staff come to this particular briefing?
Ahmad Manasra, a Palestinian boy arrested at the age of 13, has been in prison for more than seven years now. Most recently, he's been in solitary confinement for seven months straight, and we recently moved to the prison hospital. Due to life and death urgency of this case, Rebuilding Alliance asked all House and Senate senior staff to Zoom with us, with mental health experts on the line.
These Contact Congress briefings matter because Israel's Special Release Committee (a type of parole board) insistes it has not juristiction to release him. But no one else does either.
Here’s another reason why these Zoom-briefings matter: On June 29th, the Israeli Supreme Court heard the Sumreen family's appeal in an eviction case that has been ongoing for over 30 years.
The Supreme Court hearing went surprisingly well. The Justices listened for two and a half hours asking key questions. According to the Israeli Human Rights Group, Peace Now, the Court gave the Government of Israel 45 days to explain why the title to the Sumreen family home was taken from them under Israel’s Absentee’s Property Law when this family was never absent.
Our Contact Congress briefings are a lifeline for Palestinian communities because these communities have no representation – the Supreme Court decided that NO Palestinians are allowed on the Regional or local planning councils. When Congress intervenes, the village, the family, the Palestinian NGO, or even a young man facing a return to tortuous solitary confinement, has half a chance.
Look, this is not easy, and not all Congressional offices follow-through to make their calls to the State Department and the Israeli Embassy — but when constituents ask, most offices respond.
Thank you for all that you do. Mark your calendar for next Wednesday when GlobalGiving will match donations over $100 up to $1000.
P.S. In April, I went to live in Al Aqaba Village because back in January, a Israeli High Court judge who is himself a settler, ruled against a young family building their new home on their own land in Al Aqaba, in Firing Zone 900. His ruling put nearly every house in Al Aqaba at risk of demolition — especially the 20 or so homes in construction. The late Mayor Haj Sami, the Villagers, and Rebuilding Alliance had kept them free of demolitions for 12 years ... what a remarkable model we pioneered.
So to keep them safe, I lived and worked in the Firing Zone for two month in Al Aqaba. So far, so good. More on this soon.
What does it take to do a Contact Congress Campaign? A focused, pressing need. A letter from their lawyer to forward through Congress. Expert speakers from Palestine, Israel, and the U.S. who can each speak in a 30 minute Zoom-briefing. Constituents who email and call Congress — and if one constituent is willing to send the scheduling request and host the briefing, that's especially effective. Rebuilding Alliance’s Advocacy Team makes all this come together.
As a result of the intervention by Congressional offices, a Palestinian school remains standing, a neighborhood is not destroyed, a family's case goes to the Supreme Court (or to the High Court, depending upon location). These very real, very tangible successes are especially this time of escalating crises.
Ever since the Israeli military instituted 96-hour demolition orders, about 5 Palestinian famiies per week face time sensitive emergencies in the West Bank. When 200 Congressional offices asked to meet with us in August, we knew we had to ramp up. Rebuilding Alliance took out a loan to hire three new people to extend our advocacy program. Please welcome them:
After years of carefully laying a foundation, we’re seeing a significant response to our work. This month, 90 Congressional offices requested Zoom briefings about the six Palestinian civil society organizations outlawed by the Government of Israel. We’re inviting constituents to join the line to each House and Senate office to forward a letter to the Israeli Embassy requesting that secret evidence be made available to the accused and the public.
We’re also asking Congress to return the confiscated classroom/clinic to Al Maleh School, and soon we will launch Contact Congress campaigns to recognize planning rights in Jerusalem neighborhoods and West Bank villages.
Thank you again for your continued support and participation in this Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities. It makes all the difference.
What challenges Palestinians have faced these past few months! At the request of neighborhoods, their lawyers, the U.N., and human rights groups, Rebuilding Alliance's advocacy team has been working hard on behalf of Palestinian rights, case by case, community by community. The bombings of Gaza duirng the month of May and the lack of vaccines to stem the pandemic have made the situation even more critical. Now more than ever, we need to expand our efforts on behalf of Palestinian rights and press for American government policies guided by a desire for justice and real peace.
Thanks to your continued financial support, below are some of the areas where we have been focussing our efforts:
Advocating for East Jerusalem:
Currently, 270 Palestinian families --over 1,000 people-- are at risk of eviction from their rightful homes in East Jerusalem. Here are some of the reasons why this is simply not a private real estate dispute:
To stop the forced displacement of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, Rebuilding Alliance has been asking constituents to send letters and make phone calls urging their Senators and Representatives to intervene. When they do, we follow-up by holding Congressional briefings and inviting the constituents who took action to join the call. We are briefing House and Senate offices on both sides of the aisle.
Contact your members of Congress here to ask them to intervene and invite them to a briefing.
A note about Sheikh Jarrah- On Monday, June 7th, Israel’s Attorney General ruled that he would not intervene in the Sheikh Jarrah eviction lawsuit. This leaves the fate of the families with Israel’s Supreme Court, which will hold a hearing on August 2nd to decide whether or not to take the case. The Court msy deny to hear the case and let the district Court decision denying the families’ eviction appeal stand. Pressing Congress for immediate intervention is therefore crucial to keeping the decision out of the district Court’s hands and keeping the Palestinian families in their rightful homes.
A note about the Sumarin family- On April 5th, thanks in large part to our advocacy efforts, the Israeli Supreme Court reviewed the Sumarin family's appeal of their eviction order. Their case has been underway for 30 years. You may remember that the title to their home was taken from them using the discriminatory Absentee Property Law (even though the family has resided there continuously since the home was built and were never absent) and was sold to the Jewish National Fund. No oral arguments were presented; instead the Court requested that both parties submit statements to the Israeli Attorney General, who has 60 days to submit a position statement from the Government of Israel. During this process, the eviction is temporarily frozen. This provides a window of opportunity for the US Congress and the Biden Administration to press the Israeli government to take a position in favor of the Sumarin Family and their right to remain in their home.
This all starts with you, when you take a stand as a constituent and contact the Congress. With your support, we will continue to advocate for the Sumarin family and others threatened with unjust and unlawful evictions.
Pressing for Vaccines to Palestine:
Rebuilding Alliance is asking constituents to press their members of Congress to step in for the good of both Palestinians and Israelis and press for delivery of vaccines to families in Gaza and the West Bank. To send a letter to your own elected officials pressing for vaccines, click here. Meanwhile, we're pressing the UN Health Cluster to let us introduce the RT LAMP screening technology to Gaza because it is accurate, easy, and cost-effective.
Pinwheels for Peace:
In light of the families threatened with eviction across East Jerusalem, Rebuilding Alliance brought Pinwheels for Peace to East Jerusalem's Madaa Creative Center on April 7th. Together, we hosted "Jerusalem Children on Peace," as a way to show the children of Jerusalem that the world is paying attention to the things they care most about. In the past, we’ve found Pinwheels to be an effective way to show Congress how deeply Palestinian children care about their families, homes, school, safety, and their future. Currently, we are preparing instructional Pinwheels for Peace videos to share with both Palestinian and American children, who can create pinwheels in solidarity. We also presented a Gaza Pinwheels for Peace initiative at the RightsCon Summit for Human Rights in the Digital Age.
Next week, we'll ask your help to continue to build our team. We recently hired Adv. Nejmah Haddad as our Country Representative and we would like to add two Rebuilding Alliance coordinators to Nejmah's West Bank team. In addition, here in the U.S. we would like to begin work on Leahy Law cases, as a way to stop the targeting of children. Please mark your calendar and give on July 14th, when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations.
Over the past several months, the Advocacy team has seen important changes in this time of crisis. I'll be happy to share updates with you in the coming weeks. Until then, I want to extend a special invitation for the following event:
On Wednesday, April 7th at 10am ET, please join us for "Jerusalem Children on Peace"; a Zoom teleconference call with children from the Madaa Creative Center, who will describe what peace means to them and show you the Pinwheels for Peace they created. We ask everyone to hear the children's dreams of peace and to contact Congress to press them to save the children's homes in East Jerusalem. Joining us on the call tomorrow is Madaa Creative Center Director Jawad Siyam and Peace Now's Hagit Ofran.
Register for the event here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/jerusalem-children-on-peace/
As you may know, 270 Palestinian families are currently facing imminent eviction in East Jerusalem neighborhoods. So why hold a Pinwheels for Peace event? If we can only figure out how to get this problem to Congress in the virtual world, we hope this will have the same remarkable impact that the children's Pinwheels briefings have had these past few years. We are starting small where it counts and hoping to extend the effort to help keep the other threatened families in their rightful homes as well.
I hope you'll join us for the special event tomorrow. Thank you for your support.
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