Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities

by Rebuilding Alliance
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Sheikh Jarrah families protest the evictions
Sheikh Jarrah families protest the evictions

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:

  1. Eviction cases against Palestinians are being initiated by Jewish settler organizations who have no familial ties to the Jewish families or associations who may have lived there in the past.

  2. The Jewish families who resided there prior to 1948 were already compensated. Many were given West Jerusalem residences and storefronts, often owned by Palestinians who were forced to leave.

  3. The Israeli government is taking an active role in enabling these evictions, and has passed  discriminatory laws that grant property rights to Israeli Jews but not to the Palestinians who often build their homes on their own land. Paletinians were displaced in 1948, during the Nakba, in much greater numbers.

  4. The families of Sheikh Jarrah were invited to live there by the Jordanian government making their residency a matter of law between the two countries.

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.

Pinwheels for Peace with the Madaa Creative Center
Pinwheels for Peace with the Madaa Creative Center
Deliveries during the Gaza bombing
Deliveries during the Gaza bombing
Advocating for Um Qussah school
Advocating for Um Qussah school

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Join us for "Jerusalem Children on Peace"
Join us for "Jerusalem Children on Peace"

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.

Children at Madaa Creative Center make Pinwheels
Children at Madaa Creative Center make Pinwheels
Preparing to create Pinwheels for Peace
Preparing to create Pinwheels for Peace

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RA's Advocacy Team
RA's Advocacy Team

As 2020 comes to a close, I'd like to start off by thanking you for standing with us during such a difficult year. No matter what the next year throws our way, we know we will succeed with you by our side.

I joined the team first as a volunteer in June and I am now delighted to be coordinating the advocacy efforts as a member of Rebuilding Alliance’s staff. I wanted to update you now on our progress within our Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities. 

Please note, Rebuilding Alliance pioneered this work in 2008 when, in desperation, we asked constituents to call Congress to ask them to personally intervene to keep the kindergarten standing in Al Aqaba Village. We had helped build it -- and those calls keep it standing.  This is not lobbying because legislation is not part of the request. Personal intervention by Congressional offices at the request of their constituents is the heart of this ask.

Advocating for the Sumarin Family

Back in June, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of the Israeli human rights group Torat Tzedek alerted RA about an impending court decision in the 30 year effort by the Jewish National Fund to evict a Palestinian family from their East Jerusalem home. The Sumarin family built their home in 1950, and since then, three generations have resided there. However, in 1989, the Israeli government began eviction proceedings using the controversial Absentee Property Law, even though the family was never absent! After years of lower court cases and appeals, the Sumarin family eviction case reached the Israeli Supreme court in August of 2020, and is now slated to be decided in April of 2021. 

RA joined the Sumarin coalition to lead the effort to contact Congress on behalf of the Sumarins. We started by asking constituents to contact their members of Congress and invited them to a briefing with a team of 8 expert speakers from Jerusalem. Thanks to over 1600 constituent letters, we briefed 36 House and Senate offices on both sides of the aisle. Our request to Congress was for them to call the Israeli Embassy and State Department to stop the eviction. We also organized a virtual Leadership Learning trip to Silwan, which took constituents and Congressional staff on a walk from the Western Wall to the Sumarin family home.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier led a Dear Colleague letter to the Israeli Prime Minister urging him to stop the eviction. In total, she and 25 other Members of Congress signed the letter. During the up-coming months, RA will be preparing for the April court hearing.

Saving the Olive Harvest

This fall, our “Save the Olive Harvest” campaign started with a small British human rights group called the Friends of Madama and Burin who circulated a petition to the Israeli general in command of the West Bank urging him to protect the Palestinian olive harvest and olive farmers from aggressive Israeli settlers. With COVID-19, internationals couldn’t attend the harvest as monitors, and fearing what was to come, they asked the world to act from afar.

Rebuilding Alliance joined them, together with Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, to bring our “Save the Olive Harvest” campaign to Congress. In response, constituents sent 1500 letters to their Senators and Reps, requesting intervention on their behalf. We held 45 briefing calls and two private virtual olive harvest tours with House and Senate Foreign Policy staff and constituents on the line. We asked them to call the Israeli Embassy and the U.S. State Department to investigate and prevent further violence. Many did — and the U.S. Embassy in Israel assigned staff to file a report. In the process, we also helped the Friends of Madama and Burin extend their reach by expanding our advocacy campaign toolset to include the British Parliament. This is just the beginning; the next step is to assure Palestinian farmers safe, year round access to their land.

The challenges facing Palestinians continue into 2021. Evictions, home demolitions, and vandalism to olive trees are higher than ever. Rebuilding Alliance will be drawing upon everything we learned in our advocacy for the Sumarin Family and the Palestinian olive harvest to launch our next Contact Congress campaign in January and mobilize American constituents to prevent further abuse and injustice. We're working through all the details to lauch a quick response constituent team, here and overseas, to ask Congressional offices to register concern the moment a 96 hour demolition order is posted. With a new administration and 60 new members of Congress, there’s hope for progress and all the more reason to press forward quickly in the year ahead. With your help, we will make a difference.  

Thanks again for your trust in us. Stay safe.

A father and son picking olives in the West Bank
A father and son picking olives in the West Bank
Amal Sumarin with her family
Amal Sumarin with her family

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Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you with some exciting updates! 

First off, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Katie, and after two months of volunteering with Rebuilding Alliance, I have officially joined Rebuilding Alliance fulltime as an Advocacy Coordinator.

When I graduated from college with an Arabic and Islamic Studies degree at the start of the summer, I happened to stumble upon the incredible efforts of Rebuilding Alliance in a region I hold dear to my heart. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve this caring community from the nation’s capital, and work towards safeguarding Palestinian families.  I look forward to getting to know you better — if you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out at any time.

In other news, we have exciting updates regarding our work in Palestine revolving around the Sumarin family. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has finished circulating a Congressional letter asking for the Israeli PM to halt the eviction of the Sumarin family. The signed letter now goes to the House Ethics Committee for review. This is a critical step forward in our fight to protect the Sumarins; one which never would have happened without your kindness and persistency. On behalf of the Sumarin family and all of us here at Rebuilding Alliance, thank you! 

The Israeli Supreme Court will now be taking the Sumarin case in April. Although this may seem like plenty of time to relax, we have no plans to ease off the gas. Rebuilding Alliance will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Silwan because, as we have learned, plenty can happen when we turn the other way. We are also working on a short film to document the progress of the Sumarin coalition, which has been leading the fight to keep the Sumarin house standing. 

On a separate note, our advocacy team is preparing to take on a new and exciting challenge in the Palestinian villages of Madama and Burin. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for an announcement about the details of the case! 

As always, thank you for your steadfast support for Rebuilding Alliance and most importantly, for Palestinian communities who deserve peace.

Sincerely,

Katie                                                                                                                                

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The Sumarin home is in Jerusalem's Old City
The Sumarin home is in Jerusalem's Old City

The Sumarins are a family in East Jerusalem that have been fighting to keep their home for over 30 years. Rebuilding Alliance was invited to join the Sumarin Coalition in May 2020 because we would contact Congress, and 8 volunteers came from all over the country and Great Britain to help!

The Coalition is an international group of 20+ organizations that are advocating on behalf of the Sumarins. Constituents were urged to call their Representatives and Senators and ask for 2 specific interventions: to call the U.S. State Department and to call the Israeli embassy to express concern about the injustice of this eviction. 841 constituents sent 3018 letters. We held about thirty-eight 30 minute briefings with Congressional offices with speakers from Jerusalem on the line, often with constituents joining us.

As a result of a briefing, Congresswoman Jackie Speier is sponsoring a letter addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu requesting to halt the eviction. The letter as of now has 23 co-signers and will close for signatures on Wednesday, September 2nd at 6 PM.

From an excerpt of Congresswoman Speier's letter, here's what happened: 

"Thirty years ago, JNF asked the Israeli government to seize the Sumarin family home based on Israel's Absentee Property Law, even though the family had the rightful title and were never absent. On May 23, 1991, without notification to the family, the property was purchased by JNF from the Development Authority in a land barter. In 1994, Judge Yehudit Tzur ruled that the declaration of the home as absentee property was unlawful and denied the claim for eviction, yet the land and the title to their home were never returned to the Sumarin family. The Israeli Government's Klugman Commission later noted "grave findings regarding the functioning of the Custodian of Absentee Properties," and pledged to end the use of the law but failed to apply the policy retroactively to past eviction cases."

In a separate project, Rebuilding Alliance helped raise funds so the family could take case to Israel's Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case. With this case, Rebuilding Alliance has learned much about building a coalition. If the Supreme Court case is lost, this Congressional intervention is the best way to moderate government action to safeguard the Sumarin family and their Jerusalem home.

As stated by a rabbi who spoke to Congress on behalf of the family, "In the Abrahamic tradition shared by Muslims, Christians, and Jews who live in the holy city, the Temple Mount is the site of God's presence on earth. The prophets envisioned that from this place, a divine spirit of global justice and moral responsibility would descend upon the world." 

Thank you for believing in us and for your support. More soon. 

The Sumarin Grandchildren
The Sumarin Grandchildren
Old City (background) seen from the Sumarin home
Old City (background) seen from the Sumarin home

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Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Redwood City, CA - USA
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Twitter: @RebuildAll
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Burlingame, CA United States
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