September 23rd, 2013

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military increases stranglehold on Hebron’s Old City area in preparation for Sukkoth


Israeli military searching and detaining Palestinian males
in the area around Checkpoint 29.

The military had closed checkpoint 29 and 209 meaning
CPT could not enter the area.  However the team observed
between 35-40 soldiers as well as several support vehicles
entering the neighbourhood beyond checkpoint 29. All
detained Palestinians where also taken into this
neighbourhood. CPT was unable to follow and does not
know what happened to these men.

Israeli security forces have added random check points, confiscated Palestinian housing units for patrol towers, and increased random searches of Palestinians, ostensibly to provide security for settlers and Jewish visitors to Hebron for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkoth.

Meanwhile, clashes also took place outside Checkpoints 209, which CPT monitors as part of its school accompaniment, and 29 near the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah.  To prepare for the large influx of Jewish tourists, the Israeli military had moved the roadblocks outside these two checkpoints approximately 200 meters further down the road and re-directed Israeli tour buses down this route.  This move effectively enlarged area H2 under Israeli military control and disrupted life for hundreds of Palestinians.

Clashes started in the morning around these checkpoints as Israeli soldiers fired rounds of tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets onto the streets for several hours—lasting until dark.

Soldiers injured several Palestinians, including some shot during clashes in Bab iZaweyya, the economic center of Hebron just outside of the Old City.

As the night progressed, soldiers shut down checkpoints 29 and 209 completely, detaining and arresting several groups of Palestinians around the area.  They also prevented human right observers from monitoring the escalations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Soldiers took the Palestinians they detained to areas where human rights observers could not enter.

September 21st

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: I am no longer a pacifist.

I've been a Mennonite for twenty years and a Mennonite pastor for three years.  But after a trip to Israel and Palestine this summer, I can no longer call myself a pacifist.

After spending just a few short days with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation in Hebron, a tense city in the West Bank, I realized that opposing war–being a pacifist–is a position of privilege.  It’s easy for me to say that I oppose things, like war and violence.  I live a pretty secure life. 

In Hebron, Palestinians have to go through checkpoints every day of their lives.  Their bags are subject to search in these checkpoints, and they can be stopped on the street to show their papers to any military person who wishes to see them.  There are places in the city that they are not allowed to be, places that settlers can drive their cars but Palestinians cannot.  They live in an apartheid system.

 Hani Abu Haikel (left) interviewing and
translating for Hebron team

After watching soldiers or border police stopping my Palestinian friends and making them show their papers and explain where they were going several days in a row, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and my fists clench.  How can I simply be against war and violence when this is happening right in front of me!

I understood, when I felt those physical manifestations of anger, why Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers.  Or worse.  If my blood was boiling just watching this happen to Palestinian friends a few times, how much harder would it be to experience that personally every day?

September 19th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Israeli military denies entry to third CPTer in three months

 Brenneman in olive tree

On Tuesday, 17 September full-time CPTer Jonathan Brenneman was turned away at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

The Israeli authorities detained and questioned Brenneman for over seven hours before eventually sending him back to Jordan. When the Hebron team spoke to Brenneman, he had been waiting on the bridge for seven hours.  At the end of the conversation, Israeli security called him over.

During the process, Brenneman explained to the Israeli Border Patrol that he had come to Israel-Palestine to work with the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron. 

SOUTH HEBRON HILLS: Report from Firing Zone 918

During their most recent weekly visit to villages in the South Hebron Hills, CPTers witnessed a large group of Israeli soldiers in the area and heard an artillery training activity.  Every week, Christian Peacemaker Teams, along with other internationals, provides a presence in an area, home to twelve villages, that the Israeli military has designated as Firing Zone 918—a closed military zone for training maneuvers.

On Sunday, 15 September, CPTers witnessed soldiers and a military vehicle near the village of Halaweh and two helicopter flyovers as children studied and played at the school in Al Fakheit.   They heard several other helicopters flying nearby during the night.  On the morning of 16 September, CPTers heard what seemed to be bomb detonation and machine gun fire.  Later in the morning, when they visited the village of Jinba, residents confirmed that the Israeli military had conducted infantry training exercises nearby from about 6:00 to 8:00 a.m. that morning. 

During their visit to Jinba village, CPTers learned that the Israeli authorities had stopped employees of World Vision as they were driving from Jinba to Al Fakheit and confiscated their car on 11 September.  According to a United Nations employee, soldiers said they would not return the car for at least sixty days.

The area has been relatively quiet since May – with no training activities seen or heard, though helicopter flyovers continued even during this “quiet” time and settler violence and a military raid occurred in July.  Here is a video of an Israeli military helicopter harrassing the village of Al Fakheit:

September 18th

Prayers for Peacemakers, September 18, 2013

 Epixel* for 15 September 2013

 For the hurt of my poor
people I am hurt, I mourn, and
dismay has taken hold of me.
Jeremiah 8:21


Prayers for Peacemakers, September 18, 2013

Pray for the people of Iraqi Kurdistan who are currently facing violent attacks as part of the parliamentary election campaign.  Pray also that the U.N. election monitors will observe the voting process carefully and transparently to ensure that the elections are not corrupted.

September 16th

CPT INTERNATIONAL: CPT Americas Convergence to participate in School of the Americas witness at Fort Benning, 20-24 November


Join us this November for the first ever CPT Americas Convergence in Georgia, USA.   CPTers and supporters from Turtle Island (North America) to the Southern Cone will gather for five days of formative events including worship, public protest, fellowship, accompaniment, and the opportunity for nonviolent direct action Wednesday, 20 November through Sunday, 24 November 2013.  

CPT will partner with the Alterna Community and former Steering Committee member Anton Flores-Maisonet, based in LaGrange, GA to participate in an annual public witness and civil disobedience action at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin.   Stewart, a privately run prison, is the largest immigrant detention center in the United States. Alterna and Georgia Detention Watch have long monitored this facility, documenting violations of human rights and detention standards and organizing vigils to remember the detainees trapped there as well as Roberto MartĂ­nez Medina who died while in detention at Stewart.

Following the witness in Lumpkin, CPT will join thousands gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA to call for the closure of the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA).  Since 1946, this “School of Assassins” has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, psychological warfare, military intelligence, and interrogation tactics.  SOA graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people, targeting educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor.   They have tortured, raped, “disappeared,” assassinated, and massacred hundreds and thousands of Latin Americans.   Although the official name changed in 2001 from SOA to WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), the school under any name is synonymous with torture and impunity.

IRAQI KURDISTAN: CPT calls on authorities to respect people’s political choices, U.N. to report accurately on election violence and fraud

On 15 September, CPT Iraqi Kurdistan held a press conference to present its urgent appeal concerning the current election campaign. The team felt the need to publicly address the violence that has been escalating during the last few days in Suleimaniya, and what appears to be a lack of adequate response from the authorities and the international community.  Three TV-stations and reporters from five newspapers and websites came.  CPTers read the statement in English and in Kurdish and answered questions from the journalists.

Following is the appeal:

An urgent letter to the KRG authorities, the Iraqi Kurdistan security forces and the representatives of the U.N.
This appeal concerns the coming parliamentary elections in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We are with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an international human rights organisation. We have been in the Kurdistan region since 2006, and we advocate for Kurdish human rights. We try diligently to understand the culture of the Kurdish people.  During the times of the bombing by Turkey and Iran in the border regions we saw the suffering and the devastation of the villages.  Through meetings with villagers, after the bombings, we realized that this is a peaceful nation that rejects violence.

September 13th

Prayers for Peacemakers, 13 September 2013


Epixel* for 15 September 2013
 You would confound the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge
Psalm 14:6
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing
with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary

Prayers for Peacemakers, 13 September 2013

Pray that the governing bodies of Canada, New Brunswick, and the Southwestern Energy (SWN) corporation recognize the historic right of the Original Peoples of the Wabanaki-Mi’gmag District of Signigtog to evict SWN from their unceded lands and demand compensation for the damage its operations have caused.


Related Stories:

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Wabanaki-Mi’gmag District of Signigtog issues historic directive to SWN

ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: "We do not accept the unacceptable" –Elsipogtog First Nation media release

IRAQI KURDISTAN: Joy of upcoming elections tainted by violence

Walking on Salim Street in Suleimaniya during the first week in September, one could feel the people's excitement in anticipation of the 21 September 2013 Iraqi Kurdistan Parliamentary elections.  Campaign material was everywhere.  Flags strung across the streets bore the political parties' symbols and colors.  Thousands of posters covered the walls and electric poles.  Every evening on Salim Street, cars moved slowly down the street, horns blowing, people cheering, flags waving, children filled with excitement as they waved out the car windows.


Much of the enthusiasm springs from the hopes that the new elections will bring political change.  However, many others feel afraid of what this change will bring.  People anticipate that most likely the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) will for the first time lose to the Gorran bloc.  The PUK—led by the Talabani tribe and a leader no one has seen in public after he suffered a stroke last December–has held power in this part of Kurdistan since 1991.  Gorran, which means "change" in Kurdish,  is a progressive political movement unrelated to the traditional tribal structures.  Many people in Iraqi Kurdistan hunger for change.  However, this change would bring an end to the world many people know well.  The resulting tension is disrupting the hope for a peaceful process.

September 10th

AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Clashes erupt in Hebron at end of August


  Tear gas in Baab-i-Zawwiyye

On the morning of Monday, 26 August Israeli soldiers raided the Qalandia refugee camp to make an arrest.  As the soldiers moved through the camp, crowds gathered, and protests, which included stone-throwing, began.  In response, the Israeli military killed three Palestinians and injured fifteen.  The events in Qalandia created waves of protest throughout the West Bank.  That afternoon clashes erupted in Hebron.

Crowds of men and boys had gathered near a checkpoint in H1 (the part of Hebron under nominal Palestinian control).  When CPTers arrived, the crowds had begun throwing stones.  Israeli soldiers were on roofs.

A few blocks from the checkpoint (still in H1, where according to the Hebron protocols, Israeli soldiers are not allowed to be), soldiers had set off sound bombs.  As CPTers approached, the soldiers were retreating back towards the checkpoint; while most of the soldiers seemed relatively calm, one soldier was clearly agitated and momentarily focused his anger on CPTers before they retreated.