Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, May 14, 2005

So last night I got slightly reamed by a woman from an Italian NGO. Bridges to Baghdad. A great group that has done some wonderful work in Iraq ...and the same group that had two Italian women kidnapped last year. Earlier, I had told the woman that I worked for an independent Iraqi NGO on environmental issues. For the past few days, my organization has had three Italians here for a training on GIS (Geographic Information System) offered to Iraqi Ministry of Public Works and to some of our staff. They will use the system as part of a survey of facilities and infrastructure (roads, water treatment plants, hospitals, schools, water networks, etc.) that exists in southern Iraq. The GIS system will hopefully help them to create of master plan for development and reconstruction for the south of the country.

But when I met the Bridges woman again last night and she heard that these Italian trainers were in town, she ask what organization they were from.

I said they were from the Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory. That's when she began to unloaded on me.

"Well, you don't work for an independent organization then! You are working with the Italian government and they are part of the Occupation! You can't claim to be independent! The Italians have troops in Iraq. And you are working with their government!"

I was a little shocked by the violence and rapid fire of her tirade. All I could say to her was, "Well, I guess that's true." Atleast by her definition. No more was said on the subject and we went off to have a nice dinner with friends. But I was certainly thinking about what she said most of the night.

This isn't the first time I've run into this argument. I got a taste of it once when I was in college. One of our facilty at the environmental studies program I was in got some research funding money from a company known for destroying the forests in the Pacific Northwest. Some people critizied her and told her that the company was just using her to make themselves look more "Green." She argued that, while that might be true, her work was important and would directly oppose the companies bad practices. At the time I remember feeling that it wasn't a simple black and white issue.

In this situation ... I don't really equate the Italian Ministry of Environment with a for-profit company trying to rape the land, but it is the same kind of thinking. Don't have relations with the "enemy" - stay pure and true to your convictions. The enemy being, in this case the Italian government.

The funny thing is that I work for an Iraqi organization and let me tell you that the vast majority of Iraqi organizations ... even one that doesn't like the occupation or actually opposes it... would be more than willing to accept money from the Italian government. Probably most would even take funding from the American government!

She is trying to impose her world view on the Iraqis and I'm sure they will disappoint her everytime in this regard. The next day I told the Italian engineers who were here for the training what had happened the night before. The head of the team responded this way.

"This is the typical stupid response of the peace movement. They think there is only one way to help the Iraqis." His didn't personally feel like an occupier just because he worked of the Italian government. He was trying simply to help restore a marsh and the life of the people living in the marsh. That was going to take a big effort and alot of money. The kind of money that governments can spend and his government was one of the few that had stopped up to the plate to do it.

In the end, I understand where this woman was coming from. She is Italian and disagrees with what her country has done in Iraq. I know that I wouldn't be particularly pleased if my NGO took a big grant from the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. State Department (not that this is likely to happen). Fortunately I would feel comfortable voicing my opinion with my boss (we have a good enough relationship for that), but in the end, it's an Iraqi NGO and I grant them perhaps more authority to make such a decision than perhaps I would with a group I worked with in the U.S.

In the end, since the goals of our organization are in line with the goals of the Italian Ministry of the Environment and focused on marshland restoration, I think our group is independent. That is our mission afterall. Should the Italian Ministry take a new course and try to steer us away from restoration (quite unlikely) I suppose we would see how independent we are ... but that is so unlikely that I can't see that really being an issue.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Tel Rumeida is a tiny Israeli settlement in the heart of the Palestinian town of Al Khalil (Hebron, in the southern West Bank). Al Khalil/Hebron is an area of constant struggle between Palestinians and Religious Israeli settlers and the Israeli Military. Currently there are plans to build a new Israeli-only road to connect Tel Rumeida to the other settlements in the area, destroying part of a Palestinian cemetary and confiscating more Palestinian land in the process (a clear violation of the Hebron Peace Accords).

Hani Abu Haikel, a long-time resident of Tel Rumeida, recounts how his father refused to leave his home in Tel Rumeida due to settler attacks, saying, "I am at the end of my life. I want to stay." Now, Hani also refuses to leave and calls this "the final battle."

The following is an account of some recent attacks, harassment and
difficulties families have experienced:

April 4 - Settlers and Israeli soldiers take over the Siyaj house

April 22 - A settler attacks Mohammed Abu Aisha, with a battery-operated drill.

May 2 - Settlers place razor wire and a tree as a blockade to the front entrance of the Abu Haikel house. Palestinians immediately removed the blockade.

May 3 - Settler cars block entrance to Palestinian Qurtuba girl's school. Settler Anat Cohen slaps CPT member Dianne Roe and shouts while Roe attempts to protect access for Palestinian girls to enter school, "Go to Auschwitz and take all the Arabs with you."

May 4 - Settlers vandalize Dr. Tayseer's home. Settlers stoned the home, cut phone line and the water pipes. Border police were present while the vandalism continued unchecked

More Recent Settler Attacks Against Palestinians In Tel Rumeida:

- March 14 Settlers stone the Al Azzeh family house

- Various Dates Settlers stone the Abu Haikel house and throw rubbish on their garden

- Women and teenage settlers attack Sharabati family sons and detain them.

- Hani Abu Haikel is stoned while picking and spraying his grape leaves

- Rima Abu Haikel, pregnant and in labor has great difficulty going to hospital on cold, wet night, walking through mud to be able to reach a road because regular access is denied.

- Israeli soldiers do not allow Israeli police access to the Abu Haikel family

- May 5 - Israeli soldiers block access to a diplomatic tour group
organized by Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. Diplomats included
representatives of the Palestinian consulates of South Africa, France, Switzerland, Ireland, and United Kingdom, and they were to tour the site of the proposed new road for the use of Israeli settlers from Tel Rumeida only. Israeli soldiers declared the area a closed military zone.

- New racist graffiti can be found all over the area: Ex.:"Gas the Arabs, JDL"

I'm sorry, I don't have a list to compare of Palestinian violence against settlers. That would only be fair I suppose, but in this situation it is clear that the Palestinians are an occupied people and the violence of the Israeli state is far more crushing and institutionalized than Palestinians violence. But in the end violence is violence and it is a never-ending, descending spiral for both populations. That is why it is important for those of us who stand outside of this conflict to do our best to help end it.

Here is one way you can begin:

Please fax, e-mail or send postcards ASAP to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs or State Department and/or Prime Minister or President. Copy your Members of Parliament or Representatives and Senators. Urge them to send a clear message to the Israeli High Court that implementing the Israeli military decree, number t/17/05 of 11 February 2005, violates the Hebron Protocol, which was signed between Palestinians and Israelis in 1997 and expands the illegal Israeli settlement area in Tel Rumeida in direct violation of the Road Map for peace. U.S. citizens, please express your affirmation of the stance President Bush has taken against settlement expansion.


Please challenge the Israeli military decree, number t/17/05 of 11 February 2005, that takes the land of Palestinian families and disrupts their lives to add a new settler road in Tel Rumeida, at the heart of Old City Hebron. These Palestinian families have already suffered enormous loss and constant assaults ever since the establishment of the illegal Israeli settlement in Tel Rumeida. This new Israeli military order expands the settlement in
violation of the Hebron Protocol of 1997 and the "Road Map" for peace. The road will destroy historic houses, disturb Muslim graves, uproot long-lived olive trees, and damage ancient monuments in the area.

If not stopped, a consequence of this decree will be to put more pressure on Tel Rumeida Palestinians to move out, thus providing unoccupied homes and lands for takeover by settlers. Evacuated Gaza settlers must not be relocated to Hebron!

We urge you, then, to send a clear message to the Israeli government that implementation of military decree t/17/05 of 11 February 2005 is unacceptable in view of commitments agreed by Israel in both the Hebron Protocol of 1997 and the "Road Map" for peace; it will increase Israeli military and settler control of the area, escalating settler violence and increasing tension in Hebron city.

For further information on this matter, please refer to:

CPT Hebron Release: "Hebron Palestinian Families in Crisis: Settlers Escalate Violence; CPT Offers Opportunities for Reporters to Visit Besieged Palestinian Families", 9 May 2005. The press release may be found at the following link:

Hebron Rehabilitation Committee at: Phone: 02-222-3595 / Fax: 02-222-6994 / E-mail: / Web Page:

Christian Peacemaker Teams at: Phone: 02-222-8485 / E-mail: / Web Page:

Yours sincerely, for peace,

[Your name and full address.]



Prime Minister Paul Martin, House of Commons, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6. Fax 613-941-6900

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew, House of Commons, Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6, Fax 613-996-3443

You can mail you MP at the House of Commons address, or find their fax number by looking them up at:


President George W. Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20500, Fax 202-456-2461

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520, Fax (202)261-8577

Senator_____________, US Senate, Washington, DC 20510

Representative_________________, US House of Representatives, Washington DC, 20515

For fax numbers, go to: and enter your zip code.


Prime Minister Tony Blair, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Fax 020-7925-0918

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Downing, Street West, London SW1A 2AL, Fax 020-7839-2417

Find contact information for your MP at

Monday, May 02, 2005

From my friends, the Christian Peacemaker Team, in Baghdad

April 25, 2005

Today the team was visited by a young Iraqi man whose family raised
more than twenty thousand dollars from contributors worldwide to pay
for medicine for the hospitals and clinics at Fallujah. He has
asked that CPT accompany the delivery of the supplies into the
city. During his visit, he gave us the grim news that four people
he knew have died in the last several days. The day before his
visit the father of one of his friends became a target for
kidnappers. When his friend's father resisted, the kidnappers
opened fire with their weapons, riddling his body with bullets. Our
visitor had to help take the body to the morgue.

Later, another young man who is both a college student and a
journalist visited us. He told us that a car bomb detonated within
several hundred feet of his house. No one in his family was injured,
but two people driving near the booby-trapped car were killed. The
driver died instantly but the passenger died as the young man and
friends tried to get him to a hospital.

Yesterday we met with an Iraqi human rights worker who documents
issues of detainee abuse. He gave us information about a 13-year-
old boy who is being detained along with information on inhumane
living conditions at the Multi-National Force detention camps.