Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 52 (since 2011-10-19 19:23:15)

Donna Baranski-Walker holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Hawaii. Prior to forming the Rebuilding Alliance, Donna Baranski-Walker was the inventions Licensing Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then Stanford University, then SRI International, responsible for evaluating telecommunications inventions, negotiating licenses, and forming start-up companies. On August 31, 2010, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude at the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland before 27,000 people for organizing the Support of Solidarity committee in Chicago when she was 24 years old. On October 2010, Donna received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo. On Oct. 4, 2008, Rebuilding Alliance, the organization she founded, received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, “Presented to the Rebuilding Alliance in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community,” upon unanimous passage of H.Res. 1369, The Peace- Makers Resolution. which Donna authored. Twice in 2009, people at the U.S. State Department told Donna that she is amazingly effective. One said that when Congress calls, he gives her “his highest recommendation in the hope you can do something that we can’t do yet.” When President Carter was barred from entering Gaza, she arranged a meeting of Gaza NGOs to videotape questions. Donna’s work has been awarded the 2003 Lewis Mumford Award for Development by the Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility. Her plan to finance and rebuild Palestinian neighborhoods — now realized in the Rebuilding to Remain program — was a semifinalist in the National Social Venture Competition in 2003, and she presented her paper at the invitation of a United Nations seminar in Geneva, Switzerland. Rebuilding Alliance was also awarded “Employer of the Year” by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office for the Employment of Persons with Disabilities. Donna has been partnering with Palestinian & Israeli NGOs since 1996, listening hard and building homes, schools and playgrounds. The teleconferences she organizes with peacemakers, congressional staffers & constituents are meaningful and lead to constructive intervention to keep those homes, schools and playgrounds standing despite demolition orders. Donna is 2nd generation Polish-American from Dearborn Heights, Michigan. She's not Israeli, not Palestinian. Donna’s interest in the Middle East began in 1990 when she initiated a symbolic message to the people of Iraq as a way to end the then standoff without going to war. Some 10,000 people participated weekly with considerable U.S. news coverage. Her New York Times op-ed, “Small Lights in the Darkness,” was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation a week before the First Gulf War began. Encouraged by Jerome Wiesner, President Emeritus of M.I.T. and former science advisor to President Kennedy, Donna’s work over the past 20 years explores the creative use of technology to link neighbors together over the world to build peace. Her latest work, ContactCongress Countability, draws upon all she has learned about engaging Congress to provide a powerful new resource for citizen engagement and policy change.

Website: www.RebuildingAlliance.org

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  • The cost of fear: a night on the West Bank
    • Alice, thank you so much for writing, for being there, and telling their story with care. This is Donna from Rebuilding Alliance. When I asked one of our founding board members, Ghassan Abdullah, how to help resolve this latest crisis, he replied, "I suppose by telling the story, as Edward Said suggests." That is what you are doing.

      I've learned that Congressional staffers will make calls to the State Department and the Israeli Embassy, privately, in response to constituent requests for intervention especially when small, specific actions are requested. Based on what you are seeing, what specific action would you request?

      Lastly, somehow I am somehow receiving the COGAT (Israeli Civil Administration) monthly announcements. They sent a respectful message describing Ramadan prayers and noting an easing of checkpoints stating, "All Palestinian men aged 50 or older, and women aged 40 or older may visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israel without a permit on Fridays during the month of Ramadan." At the bottom of the message, there is an asterisk without comment, "The policies above do not apply to Hebron residents", a city of 250,000 people.

  • Israeli army enacts curfew near Nablus and raids eight major West Bank cities
  • Two Palestinian youths killed by Israeli army live-fire during Nakba Day demonstration
    • There is an important American Law called the Leahy Law that requires a U.S. response to such gross violations of human rights by an allied army. The law states that the U.S. must cut off aid and training from the 'unit' involved, at the smallest level, until the perpetrators (soldiers firing live ammunition) are brought to justice.

      Alison, can you find out the exact name of the Israeli Army Unit involved at Ofer? Walid, what was the the exact name Israeli Army Unit that fired at the young Munib Masri?

  • Five eggplants and a bulldozer
    • Look, my going to talk with the soldiers was not about provoking them further, it was about reducing risk and keeping everyone safe. Although the Israeli Army's military training (and there's always training in that closed military area of the Northern Jordan Valley, Area C) grew very big over the next three days, and it was terrifying, the mayor and everyone there concurs, they stuck to the 2002 agreement brokered by the Israeli High Court. They did not use live fire in Al Aqaba Village.

      The reason I was on my way to Ramallah on April 1st was to join a meeting of the Civil Society Advocacy Working Group on Displacement, a group I've been following for many years but never met. One of the major issues they raised was what to do when a circle is drawn by the Israeli Army Civil Aministration to protect some parts of a village but not outlying homes. Clearly, the advocacy strategy must be to protect all, whether inside an arbitrary circle or not. When it comes to saving houses, I'll take the Raoul Wallenberg approach (he saved people) every time: save every one that you can, using every means available, then save more.

      On April 1st, the soldier's kept their word. Al Aqaba and Tayasir stayed safe with all homes intact but demolition bulldozers were active in nearby Tubas and other towns, demolishing more homes and animal shelters than in all of April 2013 (see UNOCHA report below).

    • Per a call with Mayor Haj Sami, now it is all calm again. He said, "Yesterday the soldiers were walking in between the houses in the village, but no shooting. Today the tanks and soldiers have all gone."

    • With Mayor Haj Sami's posts of extreme levels of training all around the village, I'm heading back to the village as soon as morning comes. He would have called me if they entered the village -- that's when we ask everyone to call their Representatives and Senators to ask them to call the State Department and Israeli Embassy... I'll write a script now that people can use for their calls.

      Take a look at the UNOCHA report - on April 1st there were more demolitions than for all of April last year. This escalation is likely payback for PA President Abbas signing Palestine into 15 UN agencies including the Geneva and Vienna Conventions and those dealing with women’s and children’s rights.

      Let's hope this training, like usual, calms by end of day today as the soldiers head home for Shabbat.

    • This just in from Mayor Haj Sami's Facebook page

      Translation: Urgent
      Occupation forces turned to the village of Aqaba battleground this morning of Thursday, 04/03/2014 through bombing and shelling over and around the village of Aqaba, sparking panic and fear among the citizens, especially children, kindergarten and school students (12 photos)

    • Important Addendum: UNOCHA Humanitarian Update, April 2

      Wave of demolitions in Area C displaces 60 people and affects over 30 others

      On 1 April, the Israeli authorities demolished a total of 32 Palestinian-owned structures in six locations across Area C of the West Bank, on grounds that they lacked building permits. These demolitions displaced 60 people, including 31 children, and undermine the livelihoods of 30 others:

      The affected communities and structures are:
      1. Humsa al Baqai’a (Tubas): four residential structures, seven animal shelters and pens, two toilets and one kitchen;
      2. Humsa Basaliya (Tubas): one animal structure;
      3. Qarzaliya area of Al Jifltik (Jericho): two animal structures;
      4. Al Ja’wana (Nablus): four residential structures, eight animal shelters and one latrine;
      5. Bruqin (Salfit): one agricultural room; and
      6. Haris (Salfit): a shop.

      The first four areas are herding communities located in the Jordan Valley, which continues to be the part of Area C most affected by demolitions. Around 90 per cent of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area is designated as Area C ...

  • 'NPR' praises Israeli assassination program in faulting US one
  • Letter from Al Aqaba on the 'Rebuilding to Remain' campaign
    • Try again. To find Al Aqaba, google Tayasir and look east to where the road forks. Latitude: 32°20'12.09"N, 35°25'5.20"E in GoogleEarth.

      You've been looking at a nearby town called Akaba, a much bigger place in Area A. Many people confuse Akaba Town with tiny Al Aqaba Village which does not appear on GoogleMaps:

      - When the UN helped me first visit Al Aqaba, even they got confused and went to the wrong place.

      - In 2012, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro made that same mistake when he responded to an inquiry from Representative Eshoo at my request. Ambassador Shapiro was surprised when Mayor Haj Sami explained that the $437,000 USAID provided for equipment to the town's primary health clinic, rainwater collection cistems and water supply trucks was only for Akaba Town in Area A, not Al Aqaba Village in Area C.

      That said, Al Aqaba is also a great place for a coffee shop and they've just opened one near the guest house! Please do go visit, they welcome everyone. Here's a link to Al Aqaba's Guest House to help you plan your visit.

    • Thank you, good to hear this translation.

      Worth noting is that Al Aqaba's villagers hold very clear title to their land and this has never been in dispute. The filing of title documentation was especially rigorous in the northern part of the West Bank.

      Also worth noting is that just outside the windows of Al Aqaba's kindergarten is a track of land extending for 22,000 dunums (5336 acres) that belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. That land was purchased by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the 1930's, at the request of the landowners of the area.

      Al Aqaba is exploring the possibility of leasing the Patriarchate's land to build a Rehabilitation Hospital — a green, restorative, and inspiring response to the harm that military training has caused.

    • A big Thank You to everyone who gave today. 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' reached 4th place by most donations, and 3rd place by most donors!

      With the $12,765 we raised, Sadeq's home will be finished very soon and work will begin on the next 'Rebuilding to Remain' home too!

      Thank you again,
      Sincerely,
      Donna

    • 'Rebuilding to Remain' is in 3rd place with about 35 min to go. Good news: we've raised enough to finish Sadeq's house — they'll be able to get married in March!

    • The easiest way to see Al Aqaba, is to google nearby Tayasir, then look east, just up the road. Specifically, Al Aqaba is at Latitude 32°20'12.09"N, Longitude 35°25'5.20"— looks good on GoogleEarth.

      Your question raises a bigger question — why isn't Al Aqaba on the map? And what about the other 149 Palestinian villages in Area C also facing demolition orders?

      A group of us are planning a visit to Google's mapping group very soon to ask them to include them all. I'll be happy to take a Google mapping rep with me when I travel there in March (maybe for Sadeq's wedding, yes?)

      For more on Al Aqaba, see link to en.wikipedia.org

    • Many thanks, Tree! Here's the link to find out if your company will match:
      link to globalgiving.org

    • Now 7th place! We've raised a total of $7,093 so far including $1637 in matching funds. With $3000 more, we can finish Sadeq's home. With $23,000 more, we can finish all three homes.

      The competition lasts until midnight, Eastern time and GlobalGiving still has $29,000 to give away.

    • Eva, thank you so much!

      'Rebuilding to Remain' is in 8th place so far and there's still $31,000 in matching funds available. We'll need 81 more donors to overtake the "Most Donors" leader, so please tell your friends.

      Here's a link to the Leader Board:
      link to globalgiving.org

    • I first met Phil Weiss when I brought the Mayor of Al Aqaba, Haj Sami Sadeq, to speak at a Brooklyn for Peace event in 2008. It was the opening week at the U.N., the stock market was crashing around us and the hotel that assured us access for people with disabilities was sadly wrong. What a challenge to find accessible accommodations when all of NYC is full — the dynamic mayor of Al Aqaba is paraplegic. He was the first victim back when the Israeli Army routinely used this village for live-fire training exercises.

      Many will wonder why this mayor, these villagers, and Rebuilding Alliance have worked so hard to finish these homes. Coming home has been their dream as long as I've known them. We started with a kindergarten in 2003 and my promise was to build a school that would not be demolished; today it serves 160 children. That Kindergarten attracted 20 other countries to invest in Al Aqaba too, ignoring demolition orders that are currently frozen in the Israeli court system.

      They deserve the right, as do all families, to live on their land, to plan their future, to educate their children, to have a job. Thank you for making this possible.

  • Here’s how Sadeq can get married
    • The Global Giving Bonus Day Competition closed with 'Rebuilding to Remain' in 4th place by total donations (2nd, 3rd, and 4th were all very close), and in 3rd place by most donors! 70 people gave during the competition and we raised a total of $12,765 including nearly $3000 in matching funds.

      Thank you so much. We're now able to finish Sadeq's house (he and his fiance will get married at last!). I ask more funders to come forward to finish the other two homes because they'll be safer if they all move in at the same time. What a homecoming that will be!

    • Thanks for asking the question and thank you for your support. Though most agree that Al Aqaba's villagers, indeed all Palestinians, have every right to live on their land in Area C, so far, that very real threat of demolition has been enough to discourage any significant investment. Al Aqaba's villagers put forward a way to counter that misperception.

      Let's hope the potential investors accept Al Aqaba's invitation and proudly join us to build the next 10 homes and do their best, adding their diplomatic channels to all of ours, to keep this village — and the other 149 Palestinian villages in Area C — standing.

    • Good news! We've raised enough to finish Sadeq's house!

      With 45 min to go, 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' is in 3rd place by most donors, and 6th place by most donations. We've raised a total of $11,092 so far.

      If another 79 donors give before 9pm, we could win a bonus of $1000.

    • Unlike the rescue for George Bailey, this one does not depend upon an angel. Instead I look to real world Raul Wallenberg for inspiration. I always thought it must have been a mighty negotiation, to save so many people. Instead his success was based on his creative negotiation for each one's release, 1 by 1. Wallenberg's issuance of protective passports is what inspired Al Aqaba's issuance of their own building permits.

      About your P.S., to be honest, we have sought out those options — and more. The Quatar Foundation seemed interested at first, then no. Royalty at the Global Donors Forum, the biennial convening of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, were excited to see the designs then asked 'how soon before Israel will demolish the homes?' They chose not to lend a hand.

      The PA made promises they did not keep. The Rawabi team declined to connect, even though these may be the only truly affordable housing designs available for low-income Palestinians. Millionaire al-Masri did not return our calls, though we tried many times. Islamic Relief warmly welcomed our presentations but they too have not provided funding.

      Shall I go on? The Palestinian Housing Council asked for a proposal to fund the next 10 homes then stepped back without comment. One of their board members negotiated the Area C provisions in the Oslo Accords and had warned Yasser Arafat of the danger of accepting those 18 month delay clauses.

      There's more. Do you remember Abigail Disney's promised to divest her holdings in Ahava and invest her earnings in peacemaking initiatives especially in the Jordan Valley? She's had our proposal for 2 years now. And of all the 20 countries that have invested in Al Aqaba Village, well, the U.S. is not among them yet. We're hoping this will change soon as USAID is offering to help Al Aqaba market its herbal medicinal teas.

      Al Aqaba, when faced with insurmountable obstacles, chose to respond thoughtfully, with love, and without relying on anything more than their own good resources and the good will of everyone who cares. That's why I ask you to go to Rebuilding to Remain and click Donate.

      What we give today really matters. It will matter to Sadeq and his fiance. It will matter to this village and more.

    • The Bonus Day Competition is now in full swing with just under 6 hours remaining. 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' is in 8th place with just $2200 needed to finish Sadeq's home and another 20K to finish two more.

      If you have not made your donation yet, please give now. link to globalgiving.org
      If you have already donated, please spread the word.

      You can certainly donate in honor of those you most care about, and you can also donate anonymously.

  • Witness accounts on the killing of three Palestinians that stopped peace negotiations
    • Solid article Allison. I was in nearby Ramallah that day — so many explained that the riot broke out because the soldiers came to arrest someone they released only two week's before in the trust-building measure that opened the way for peace talks. I was surprised that local and international press did not report this. Was Yousef al-Khitab indeed re-arrested that morning?

      Also, the eye-witness account regarding Robin Zayed's death is particularly chilling. Please ask UNRWA if they will be presenting testimony to the U.S. Human Rights officer at the U.S. Consulate. You might ask the UNRWA spokesperson if they will put forward a request to invoke the U.S. Leahy Law and also ask the U.S. Consulate if they will investigate and register this as a Leahy Law violation.

  • Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh sentenced to 5 months in prison
    • Annie,
      Because he was a State Dept. Fellow, please call the Israel/Palestine desk at the State Department to ask if they are following this case and if they have expressed concern. In addition, ask your congressperson's staff to contact the State Department on your behalf as State is more likely to respond to a Congressional inquiry. Are you in Rep. Pelosi's district? Also ask her staff to express your concern, publicly or privately, to the Israeli Embassy — they have 3 floors set-up to respond to Congress.

  • Who is Goliath?
    • TomBishop, have you found ways that turn peoples away from the abyss of totalitarianism and genocide? The critical question for our time is this: what can we do to bring neighborhoods and nations back to good health, safety, and respect for human rights and environmental responsibility?

      One thing we must do is to listen to the peacemakers, those working for justice in each country. On Thanksgiving Day, just after the ceasefire was announced, Rebuilding Alliance held our 2nd hour-long Stay Human Conference Call with

      • Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, calling from Gaza City, Palestine

      • Dr. Ruchama Marton, founder of Physicians for Human Rights, calling from Tel Aviv, Israel

      Remarkable call, please listen to the recording.

      Our first call, last Tuesday included Mr. Husam El Nounou calling from Gaza City and Rabbi Arik Ascherman calling from Jerusalem.

      Four years ago during Cast Lead, I created the Sweep Down the Walls Conference Call series, putting a peacemaker from Gaza and a peacemaker from Israel on the line every two days with dozens of people throughout the U.S. and the world to hear them. Such important voices... I couldn't find funding to keep it going. This time we must find a way.

      The next Stay Human Conference Call will be Monday, Nov. 26th, speakers to be announced, register here by clicking "Count Me In"

      Starting Tuesday, Morgan Bach and I will be in DC to walk the halls of congress and bring these conference calls — with their constituents on the line — to the senior staffers for Senators and Representatives. If you would like me to visit your Senators and Representative, please help me schedule the meeting. Sincerely,
      Donna Baranski-Walker

  • Israel rejects truce and escalates fighting in Gaza with assassination of Hamas leader; 10 killed, 90 wounded in Israeli attacks
    • The Haaretz article you cited is very important. Lieberman's draft plan would now formally take the 63% of the West Bank called 'Area C' in the Oslo accords while expanding Israeli settlements there:

      <blockquote cite=" 1. Israel would immediately recognize a Palestinian state in provisional borders, based in Area A of the West Bank, where Palestinians would have control over security and civilian matters, and Area B, where Palestinians would have control over civilian issues alone; these areas would comprise some 40-50 percent of the territory in the West Bank."

      Also of note is 'Austere Challenge 12', the US/Israeli joint military exercise still underway? It was scheduled to last 3 weeks, starting somewhere around Oct. 31st. If the joint military training is underway, what must the U.S. do, right now, to urge all parties to stand down and avoid the US being sucked into Israel's Gaza attack?

      Re. Austere Challenge 12, from Lea Park:

      Bloomberg:
      “Austere Challenge 12 is the largest aerial defense exercise to take place between the two militaries,” the Israeli army said overnight in an e-mailed statement. The three-week drill, involving as many as 3,500 U.S. personnel in the region along with 1,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces, according to the Pentagon."

      Global Post
      Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Tel Aviv on Sunday to launch "Austere Challenge 12," the largest-scale joint military exercise Israel and the United States have ever undertaken, at a cost of $38 million to the two nations.

      al Jazeera
      ,,, with US covering $30 million of that.

  • Courage in the face of intimidation: Rebuilding to remain
    • IF 20 more people give, and maybe among them is an $8000 donor, we could put the families into their new homes before the rains come.

      Just 2+ hours left in the competition. Please go to and give now:
      link to globalgiving.org

    • Right now, Rebuilding to Remain is in 11th place. We need $14,576 to reach our goal and complete the first three homes in construction.

      To give, just go to http://www.RebuildingAlliance.org and click GiveNow

    • This is our big chance to finish three homes and get families moved in before the rains. Please give to Rebuilding to Remain. GlobalGiving's Matching Day competition begins at:

      — 9:01pm, Pacific Time, Tonight Oct. 16th
      — 10:01pm Mountain Time, Tonight
      — 11:01pm Central Time, Tonight
      — Midnight:01 Eastern Time, Wednesday, Oct. 17th,
      — 5:01 am GMT, Wednesday, Oct. 17th,
      — 7:01 am Jerusalem Time, Wednesday, Oct. 17th

      If you would like to join our Bonus Benefit Conference Call TONIGHT with Mayor Haj Sami, please RSVP to the Facebook event

    • Jonathan Cook published a long piece in The Link called "Welcome to Nazareth", detailing what this land confiscation in the Galilee has meant to its largest city, Nazareth.

      In 2009 Gapso [mayor of Nazareth Ilit] observed: “As a man of Greater Israel, I think it is more important to settle in the Galilee than in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], where natural growth is high and enough Jews already live. I urge the settlers there to come here.”

      Gapso’s goal is not just about changing the demographic balance in Upper Nazareth through higher Jewish birth rates, but about making life so unbearable for its Palestinian residents that they will choose to leave. In Israel, the Haredim are known for their savage intolerance to those who do not strictly observe Judaism’s religious laws. In towns where the Haredim live alongside secular Jews, there are regular reports of assaults on “immodest women,”the stoning of cars driving on the Sabbath, and attacks on shops selling non-kosher items.

      Mohammed Zeidan, of the Human Rights Association, says Gapso is so determined to rid his city of Palestinian families that he is prepared to risk clashes between the Haredim and the city’s secular Russian immigrants, his natural supporters. “Like all the other officials before him who made Judaization their holy grail, he is so blinded by his racism that, it seems, this end justifies any means.”

    • Annie, Yes, I'll be happy to comment on Tuesday to remind everyone!

      There's got to be a way to help Palestinian families hold on. It is important for everyone to know that 'Rebuilding to Remain' is the only mortgage loan program in Area C. Despite a new and vibrant mortgage loan program in Areas A and B, no Palestinian banks offer mortgage loans to families in Area C because the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation is not providing Palestinian mortgage loan guarantees in Area C.

  • Cindy Corrie following the verdict: 'I don't think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.'
    • I struggle to find words to express my sadness over the decision issued by Judge Oded Gershon in Israel's Haifa District Court in response to the civil suit brought by the Corrie family. With Rachel Corrie's case he could have bridged the divide, he could have pressed for accountability and so safeguarded the lives of civilians and strengthened Israel's rule of law. Instead the world became yet again more dangerous today.

      In 2009, when we testified in Abir Aramin's case before the State Department, Israeli Human Rights attorney Michael Sfard said, "Some may think it will all go away if one does nothing in response to a violation of human rights. But instead, when doing nothing, it gets worse."

      Rachel Corrie's bravery brought us together in ways we could not have imagined: Rebulding Alliance responded with heart when Rachel was killed. I lived with the remarkable family she sought to protect, and they became part of all our families as they blogged with us through many years. With your help, we brought them to the U.S. to join the Corries, speaking in seven states and telling Rachel's and their own stories — and that U.S. visa approval confirmed their integrity.

      So many of you donated to raise funds to rebuild a home for the Nasrallah family. We built that home — despite the early blockade — as we dreamed and planned the rebuilding of hundreds of Palestinian homes in the Rachel Corrie Rebuilding Campaign in Gaza. When we could no longer open the blockade to rebuild the 2200 demolished homes in Rafah, Rebuilding Alliance tested the waters and International maritime law by sending school supplies and cement on the Irish ship that bore Rachel Corrie's name in the Free Gaza Flotilla — only to see the Israeli Navy attack and kill passengers on the Mavi Marmara. When Israel invaded Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, Rebuilding Alliance held worldwide Free Conference Call briefings with direct lines to Palestinian and Israel Peace-makers as we mobilized policy makers and humanitarian aid. President Carter personally thanked us for linking him with Gaza's Non-Governmental community. And when we could not end the siege, we learned how to help as best we could to simply level soccer fields to bring children and neighborhoods together for Ramadan Soccer Tournaments in Rachel Corrie's name.

      In an article today by Leehee Rothschild on Mondoweiss, the last question that Rachel's family was asked before the conference concluded was how they feel about the fact that the judge in one out of many victim-blaming phrases in his ruling said that Rachel should have moved out of the bulldozer's way. To that Cindy Corrie replied "I don't think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her."

      We stand with the Corrie family. As gently, compassionately, and courageously as we can, we stand with Rachel Corrie.

      Sincerely,

      Donna Baranski-Walker
      Founder of Rebuilding Alliance

  • Will Israel's high court respect Palestinian family's human rights?
    • We are all awaiting word of the High Court's decision. The Jaber family's youngest child is in the hospital in Nablus with possibly heat stroke, and his mother is there too. Matt wrote, "The little boy should be coming home today or tomorrow, inshallah."

      The lawyers with call Mayor Haj Sami when they hear.

      Two Americans, a Swede, and an Australian are staying in the village now. They plan to call their respective consulates to request they come on a "welfare visit" to Al Aqaba, especially today if possible.

    • Donna here.
      I completely disagree. Israeli opinions are as disparate as those of Americans. People everywhere know what justice means and when we speak up, those who are overlooked or marginalized, find their voice.

      When I was first learning how to walk the halls of Congress and scheduled a first visit to State Department, I asked Craig Corrie how to think about this. He said, “Always give officials the opportunity to do the right thing.” Later Ghassan Abdullah added, “Too bad they need so many opportunities.”

    • Thanks for the heads-up. Here's a link directly to Antony Loewenstein's important article:
      Israel to begin recording settler land claims, deny Palestinians' right of appeal

      Documents obtained by Haaretz indicate that new land registry process, which would bypass regular tabu listings, is official policy, with repercussions reviewed by top officials.

      Please don't view this as a done deal, as there's still a window open to keep this from happening. Am I the only one who takes hope from Israel's High Court's decision to recognize the rights of Palestinian landowners in the Migron and Beit El Ulpana decision?

      The first step with the proposed land theft registration process is to block it from becoming law. Today's Haaretz editorial urges refusal to cooperate:

      Registering settlers' rights to West Bank land is additional evidence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fine words about a two-state solution and his desire to resume negotiations with the Palestinians are mere lip service. We can only hope that all his senior coalition partners, and above all Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who bears direct responsibility for the occupied territories, will refuse to cooperate with this maneuver.

      Let's hope this proposal dies on the vine -- and consider with care what actions Americans can take in support of those Israelis who will be working against this, and what role there is for diplomacy and law.

    • Actually, you've found your way to Aqqaba, which is indeed in Area A, not Al Aqaba Village. The coordinates for Al Aqaba Village are 32°20'10.90"N, 35°25'6.28"E, just East of Tajaseer.

      It is easy to be confused by the names. When I first set-out to visit Al Aqaba in 2003, I asked the UN for help to get me there (everyone who had tried was turned back at the checkpoints). We too got confused and went to Aqqaba, a municipality in Area A, instead.

      Here's a better way to follow the ups and downs of Palestinian villages: Lea Park has been volunteering with our mapping team. She developed a Palestine Crisis Map using Ushahidi technology from Kenya. Click on the Get Alerts tab to be notified when a place you care about is in the news.

  • Help 3 families from al-Aqaba return to their village
    • If you would like to see Rebuilding to Remain's standing on the GlobalGIving Leader Board, click here

    • "Rebuilding to Remain" has just made it to the top 10 in the GlobalGiving.org competition with $9928 in donations. If 70 more people give in the next 2 hours, we could reach FIRST in the "Most Unique Donors" category... we're 5th right now. Your support, large or small, is a tangible endorsement that will open doors =)

      How can I show you the amazing energy of Mayor Haj Sami's village? Let me try ...

      Imagine you are staying in the "Al Aqaba Guest House for English Teachers and Visitors." Welcome! Will you recognize the Mayor's voice in the pre-dawn call to prayer? You may drift back to sleep only to be awakened by the sounds of birds and a tinkling, clanking sound like wind chimes, only moving from here to somewhere ... the bells on the goats herded out to the hills.

      The sun rising over the hillside is my favorite time to walk, explore, say hello. Walk down the ramp of the guesthouse, and up, up the stairs to the third floor of the Kindergarten building to visit the early-rising Al Aqaba Sewing Company. Then out the door, past the new sports pavilion (!), up the street along the new mural outside the mosque with the double minaret (like a peace sign, or a victory sign ... or a sign of victory through peace!).

      Keep going past the new building for the Rural Women's Association. Two professional designers from Australia were just here, Hana Hakim and Kathrin Wheib, to help the Rural Women design their Cheese Factory, professional kitchen (to feed the international delegations now visiting every other day), and future roof-top cafe with ice cream machine!

      If we head right, the Jordan Valley beckons to the east, with the twinkling lights of Jordan in the distance. Quickly you'll reach the trenches scarring Peace Street, making this road to the kindergarten impassable once again. Thankfully the road funded by the Norwegians is still open, a splendid hike or jog up and down the hills.

      Turn left instead. A new shelter is up for a villager's black and white cows. And just down the street is the brick-making factory with new machines churning out the very first cement blocks that will build this town. Turn left by the big pine tree and you'll see a "Rebuilding to Remain" home. What a light-filled and welcoming design Architect Hani Hassan created! (When he gave his speech at the Global Donors Forum in Malaysia, he said he was surprised how assertive the women of Al Aqaba were in the design process!)

      Now look around. Three "Rebuilding to Remain" homes are in construction and some six other families are also building too! An unexpected vote of confidence.

      Neighbors beckon and invite us to join them for sweet tea with Nana (mint). This is where school bus driver, Othman, waves to join him, driving over to do chores at his future home. He hooks up the hose from the cistern pump (each lot in Al Aqaba already has a cistern installed for their future homes), and heads up to the roof. The cement, still drying on his Rebuilding to Remain home, must be watered each day to prevent cracking.

      Othman's English is now better than my Arabic. He smiled as he told us that daughter Shahad and her brother Shadi insist upon playing at their new house every day, without fail.

      Dreams made real.

      Thank you so very much,
      Donna Baranski=Walker
      Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance

      P.S. To learn more and give, just click link to globalgiving.org

    • Perhaps you may wonder if or how this matters. This just in from Amos Gvirtz. Bardalah is very near Al Aqaba.

      Don’t say we did not know #315

      At the entrance to every Bedouin locality in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank is a sign declaring a closed military area.

      On Tuesday, 5th June, 2012, an IDF force arrived at the Bedouin hamlet Hamamat El-Milekh El-Meita, and handed out eviction orders to four families, numbering 25 people. They told the residents to dismantle their homes and leave immediately. The next day the IDF demolished four homes. The IDF also demolished two animal barracks in the Palestinian village Bardalah, in the same area. That same day 28 Bedouin families were given verbal orders to leave the area because of forthcoming IDF maneuvres there.

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      On Wednesday, government representatives demolished homes in Bedouin villages in the Negev: three homes were demolished in Tel Sheva, two in Umm Ratam (an unrecognized village east of Road 25), and a home in Sawa, which is also an unrecognized village, near Hura.

      Questions & queries: [email protected]

  • Endangered Palestinian village gets int'l media attention-- except from the U.S.
    • Today is another GlobalGivingMatching Grant Competition Day! Today, March 14th, GlobalGiving will match 30% for each donation to help Al Aqaba Village build 3 new homes -- this is the first Palestinian Village in Area C to issue its own building permits. Please share the risk with them because nearly the whole village is under demolition orders.

      To give, please go to link to globalgiving.org

    • This looks like an important law for torture victims but not a clear path to assure the village its right to exist. Interesting to see Cooley Goddard Kronish offering pro bono counsel – the Virginia offices of the same Cooley Goddard Kronish that is here in Palo Alto.

      An important earlier note in this discussion is that “genocide” is now defined broadly enough to include the demolition of homes and villages. What would it take to extend the term, "gross violation of human rights" to include home demolitions as well?

      That inclusion would mean that the Leahy Laws must respond by investigating, reporting, then cutting off U.S. aid and training from the Israeli military unit that carries out demolitions of Palestinian homes, schools, and shops. With 12,500 demolition orders outstanding in the 62% of the West Bank governed solely by Israel, a Leahy investigation could be a useful diplomatic requirement, though insufficient to guarantee the village its right in the near-term.

      We need a solid outreach and advocacy plan, and we'll need it soon. Al Aqaba village plans to start new home construction in a few weeks time.

    • I understand what you are saying about the immense value of the expanded (expanding) ability to prosecute crimes against humanity. Judge Richard Goldstone at "Civilians in War" forum at Stanford University, January 20, 2011, said, " Efficient justice is one of the only effective deterrents to human rights abuse." He went on to say the first step toward justice consists of an independent investigation with all parties participating. My frustration is that prosecution takes so long and comes too late to stop the atrocity.

      I seek models where safety was successfully negotiated, where bad policy was changed, where the very pursuit of justice prevented further injustice. I take heart from Raoul Wallenberg's negotiation strategies including his issuance of ribboned Swedish passports and from a contemporary U.S. human rights law called the Leahy Law.

      In one of our other Rebuilding Alliance projects, Abir's Garden: a Safe Place to Grow, we are working with Combatants for Peace to help them build playgrounds in memory of a child killed by a soldier's rubber bullet. To make those playgrounds safe (also part of our mission), Rebuilding Alliance has worked to invoke the Leahy Laws on her family's behalf. Because her case was recently dismissed by the Israeli High Court of Justice even as the Israeli Civil Court awarded damages to the family, this has become an important test case to invoke the U.S. Leahy Law. I believe the investigative process of invoking this law can be a way to strengthen moderate voices and threaten punishment of those who would join in criminal behavior.

      In 2009, with the help of the Carter Center, I arranged for Attorney Michael Sfard to meet with the State Department to present the status of the criminal case appeals on behalf of Abir Aramin's family. Michael Sfard told them, "One may think that if one does nothing, human rights abuse will stop. Instead if one does nothing, it gets worse."

      What steps can we take, right now, to assure Al Aqaba Village their right to exist? What arguments will engage Congress and assure their intervention (privately or publically) on behalf of constituents who care? I hope the Rebuilding to Remain building projects will be a catalyst for all, and so engage policy change for positive impact on all 149 Palestinian villages in Area C.

    • I am surprised that I've never hear of Raphael Lemkin. In all my travels, I've certainly heard of Germany's plan of "total disenfranchisement of the Polish population, further, even elimination by murder or displacement of many of them, to make way for their colonial project."

      I want to learn more about this man.

    • That night, more people donated and our project total morphed to over $13,000. Yesterday, a generous donor pledged $15,000, the amount needed to fund the affordable revolving mortgage loan for one family in Al Aqaba! As of right now, Al Aqaba's Rebuilding to Remain Campaign is at $31,013! We are nearly halfway to our goal.

    • Thanks everyone! Al Aqaba's project came in 8th in the competition and we raised $8490 today! You rock!

    • There are four human rights groups advising. The PA Minister of Local Government will be attending the meeting with Haj Sami. The Brig. General's office is expected to reply after the holidays.

      One of the human rights groups is reporting a possible opening re. water for the village and also for initiation of the building process. We'll keep you posted. Here is our overview following our meeting with the man who delivers demolition orders, Mr. Asher Rosalit of the Israeli Civil Administration:
      link to rebuildingalliance.org

    • Annie, that's great! Thank you! Al Aqaba has moved into 8th place with just under 15 more minutes to go! Whew.

    • There's follow-up to this. The Mayor's letter did reach the Brig. General --- word is that a meeting is to be scheduled.

    • With 4 hours left in the competition, the "Rebuilding to Remain" in Al Aqaba program is now in 13th place on the GlobalGiving Leader Board!

      By total number of donors we're in 5th place.

      Take a look: link to globalgiving.org

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      You may wonder if this stuff matters -- it does. We helped Al Aqaba build that kindergarten where teacher Morgan Bach is teaching then the Japanese, Belgians, and Norwegians built the 2nd floor. We helped Haj Sami build the housing for visiting teachers and used the Spring Global Giving Matching grant to set-up the visiting teachers program. And in the June Global Giving Matching Grant Competition we came in 2nd with our Architectural Design Charrette project. A month later we were there with the villagers for 10 days designing these remarkable affordable homes. Now the villagers are ready to build. This competition is a good way to get started!

    • You are right -- this village is not getting the U.S. media attention it deserves. An Op-ed by Award-winning Palestinian Architect Hani Hassan about his work with Al Aqaba was turned down by all the major newspapers. It went live in Arabic this morning: link to wafa.ps

      Mondoweiss, would you publish it in English?

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